Russia’s Denis Menchov is well placed to win the Giro d’Italia after defending his hold on the pink leader’s jersey in the penultimate stage won by Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert on Saturday.
Rabobank’s Menchov came home in the pack with Italian Danilo Di Luca, 11th and 12th respectively, after edging his advantage over the 2007 winner up to 20 seconds in the intermediate sprint.
The centenary edition of the race was to be decided in yesterday’s time-trial in Rome, which should have favored Menchov.
The 31-year-old, a twice Tour of Spain winner, wrestled the pink leader’s jersey off Di Luca by winning a long time trial in the 12th stage and the Italian conceded defeat on Saturday.
Silence Lotto’s Gilbert broke with about 1.5km left and went on to take the 203km stage from Naples with relative ease ahead of France’s Thomas Voeckler and Italy’s Stefano Garzelli, the 2000 champion. Italian Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas remained third overall, 1 minute, 43 seconds off the pace.
Spain’s Carlos Sastre, last year’s Tour de France champion, is 2:44 behind Menchov in fourth, with 2006 winner Ivan Basso almost a minute further back in fifth.
American Lance Armstrong came in 64th and remains 12th overall, 15:04 back.