Rodriguez still in Giro d'Italia lead with one stage left

With a late attack 800 meters from the top of the Passo dello Stelvio, Giro d’Italia leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) regained 14 seconds the on the time he'd lost the day before at l’Alpe di Pampeago to second placed Ryder Hesjedal. Considering his past as a poor time triallist, the Spaniard will not start the 30-kilometer time trial in Milan as the hot favorite for the overall victory with an advantage of only 31 seconds over Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda).

“I’ve got to fight against myself and limit my losses as much as possible," Rodriguez said at the post race press conference.

“I really want to win this Giro d’Italia because it’s something I’ve worked hard for. Ryder [Hesjedal] is the one under all the pressure because he’s got to make up the time. The final time trial isn’t like the first one. Our coach Sebastian Weber has studied the course and he thinks that I can do it. I trust him because he’s always been right so far.”

“It’s going to be difficult,” Katusha’s directeur sportif Valerio Piva told Cyclingnews. “We said that one minute lead was needed and one minute was an optimistic prevision. We’re not there! But Joaquim is going well. He has really improved against the clock. He’s got a nice bike for that. We’ve done everything we could to put him in the right condition. Now we’ve got a few reasons to dream of the best outcome: the course isn’t straight, there’ll be sprints after curves and Joaquim is good at that. To wear the pink jersey is a huge advantage. He’s got a great heart as well. To win the Giro is a dream… It’s possible!”

Piva said, “I’m happy that we’re here at the top of the Stelvio with the pink jersey. It means that we’ve done a good race.” The Italian didn’t hide that he asked Rodriguez to attacked earlier than when he did on the Passo dello Stelvio. But “Purito” had no regrets over his tactic. “I attacked late on because I wanted to see if Basso and Scarponi could stay with me,” he said.

In last year’s 26km individual time trial in Milan, Rodriguez who was racing to keep his fifth place overall scored the 40th best time 2:14 down on Alberto Contador. Against Hesjedal, he already has a personal history against the clock: at the 2010 Tour de France, the Canadian took the seventh place overall from him on the occasion of the 52km time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac where he rode 3:37 faster.

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