While the final top three of the Giro d’Italia has looked untouchable pretty much since the major summit finish at Mount Etna on stage 9, riders are still fighting for the highest possible positions in the overall ranking with two crucial days to go.
Kanstantsin Sivtsov (HTC-Highroad) had moved back up on GC after taking part in the large breakaway on stage 17, where he placed tenth and gained 2:49 over the other contenders for the top ten. The three consecutive high mountain stages at the end of week two (stages 13, 14 and 15) had seen him drop from second to twelfth place.
“I’m happy with the time I got during the stage of the Passo Tonale,” Sivtsov told Cyclingnews. “It could have been more but it’s quite a significant bonus. At the end of that stage, I was too tired from all the efforts I made to stay with (Giovanni) Visconti for the stage win. That move has boosted my morale and ambitions for sure. I’m not only going to defend my fifth position. If there is an opportunity, I’ll try to go for more and I won’t wait for the Milan time trial.”
“For me, to defend is not enough before the final time trial,” Gadret told Cyclingnews at the finish. “I’m satisfied that the course of the time trial had to be reduced by five kilometres but still, this is not my forte, so I need to gain time in the mountains. As a cyclo-cross man, I’m particularly inspired by the gravelled roads of the Colle delle Finestre. I’m still going well at this Giro. I’m sleeping and recovering well, so my ambitions remain high.”
At the start of stage 19, Gadret’s teammate Cyril Dessel outlined his calculations. “It’s fantastic how well we’re racing as a team,” he said. “John needs at least two minutes’ lead over Denis Menchov before the time trial.”
The Russian made the calculation easier for the Frenchmen as he finished one minute down on stage winner Paolo Tiralongo in Macugnaga.
With 2:05 over Sivtsov, 2:15 over Mikel Nieve, 2:27 over Roman Kreuziger, 2:50 over Joaquim Rodriguez and 2:58 over Menchov, Gadret can look at the last two stages with serenity. He aims to equal Christophe Moreau, who came fourth at the 2000 Tour de France, a feat that no Frenchman has managed to repeat in a Grand Tour in the past ten years.
Prior to the race, Ag2r-La Mondiale had only won a stage (through Lloyd Mondory) and the overall classification (Anthony Ravard) of the Etoile de Bessèges all season. Their great Giro, which also includes Gadret’s stage win at Castelfidardo and Hubert Dupont’s fourteenth place overall, is a sure way to improve on their seventeenth and second-to-last position in the current World Tour rankings.