Sastre's "last chance"

Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) could not respond when Pellizotti's attack shattered the group.

Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) could not respond when Pellizotti's attack shattered the group. (Image credit: 122)

Stage 19 up the slopes of mount Vesuvio will be the penultimate chance for the Giro general classification riders to improve their standings - and while this goes for the top two contenders, current maglia rosa Denis Menchov and runner-up Danilo Di Luca, it is also valid for those who still hope for a final podium placing when the race ends in Rome on Sunday.

Spaniard Carlos Sastre, who lost his third placing on the hairpins on mount Blockhaus by conceding over one minute to Menchov on Wednesday, has promised to give it another try before the ultimate 14.4km-time trial in Rome on Sunday.

"Tomorrow [today] is my last chance to do something in this Giro," said the Cervélo leader said on Thursday evening, getting full confidence and support from his team and his team directeur sportif.

"Tomorrow [today] is Vesuvio," said Jean Paul Van Poppel. "We're going to play it hard and hope that Carlos has his legs again. I think he can do it, which is why we are planning to go for it. We know it is going to be very difficult, but we won't give up until the climb is finished."

Even though Van Poppel admitted that Sastre's teammates are feeling tired by the end of a very challenging three-week Grand Tour, the Belgian was upbeat about the outcome of the race. "The big guys who have raced hard and been riding in the wind for Carlos for three weeks are starting to feel it now," he continued. "But with only three days left, we're one of only a few teams with two stage wins, and we have Carlos in the top five of the GC, so I'm very happy with the results."

Even though his teammates are tired, Sastre said they are still doing a marvelous job for him. "I felt really protected by all my teammates who are still just as motivated and enthusiastic as they were on the first day," he said after yesterday's stage raced in windy conditions. "They stayed close to me again, helping me to use up as little energy as possible and to stay in the leading positions to avoid any unnecessary risks."

USA's Ted King, a Grand Tour rookie at Sastre's service, is happy that the race is almost over. "Three days to go," said King. "My legs are hurting and mind is going a bit numb, but at this point, I'm super excited to be as far as I am and Rome is just around the corner!"

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