Tony Rominger looked to have secured his first victory in the Giro d'Italia as he stretched his lead over last year's winner, Evgeny Berzin, with success in a 26.8 mile time-trial from Cenate yesterday. With five days to go to the finish in Milan, the Swiss rider is more than five minutes ahead of the Russian.
Rominger covered the stage in 1hr 5min 59sec, averaging 24mph. Berzin was second, 1min 39sec behind, with Piotr Ugrumov of Latvia third. It was Rominger's 100th stage victory since turning professional in 1986.
After the first six miles Rominger was five seconds slower than Berzin, whose time-trial prowess last year was the foundation of his Giro triumph. But after another four miles he had taken control, leading Berzin by 32 seconds.
"I started slowly to find a good rhythm, and in the climb to the finish I gave everything," he said. "Now my goal is to stay behind Berzin and Ugrumov. All they can do is attack, but it will be difficult. With the help of my team I am racing to stay safe without any heroics."
Rominger holds three of the Giro's four jersey categories. Apart from the leader's pink, he is entitled to wear the royal blue as top points scorer and the cyclamen as No 1 in the Inter Giro, awarded to the first or fastest to an intermediate point on the daily course.
Seventy of the 198 riders who started have now dropped out.