Having lost over 12 minutes in the Giro d’Italia yesterday, Roman Kreuziger redeemed himself with a shock win at Alpe di Pampeago this afternoon.
The team Astana rider made his move at the foot of stage 19’s penultimate climb. With everything to prove, he passed the eight leading riders strewn out along the category one climb that lay before him to deliver a successful solo break.
Battling against gradients of up to 16 per cent, those still in the general classification race fought for valuable seconds – it was crunch-time in what has been a largely uneventful title race so far.
Team Lampre rider Michele Scarponi attacked repeatedly but struggled to make a decisive break. As the tour leaders looked at one another, Ryder Hesjedal rapidly accelerated with just three kilometres to go.
Only Scarponi could stick with the Canadian, who sits second in the overall classification. Checking over his shoulder, the Garmin rider saw the pink jersey of Rodriguez just metres behind him as the finish drew nearer and, in an astounding show of form, he pushed on to drop Scarponi and draw out valuable seconds over his main contenders.
Crossing the line, a wide smile spread across Hesjedal’s gritted teeth – he knew he now had a good chance of standing on the top step of the podium come Sunday. Gaining 13seconds on Rodriguez, Hesjedal now trails the overall leader by just 17seconds – a margin that he is expected to easily close on the final stage timetrial.
Two-time Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso, whose team Liquigas controlled the main bunch for much of the day, finished 55seconds behind the stage winner and slipped down the overall rankings to fourth. Unless he can gain serious time in tomorrow’s mountain stage, which culminates in the highest ever Grand Tour mountain-top finish, it looks as though his title quest is all but over.
In the points race, Rodriguez closed the gap on Cavendish by 16 points. He now needs to finish fourth in tomorrow’s stage if he is to overtake the Briton and claim the red jersey in Milan.