Menchov stays in pink and it all goes down to the final time trial

 Giro d'Italia - Napoli – Anagni 203Km

Barring a super-human effort in tomorrow's time trial the Giro seemed to be slipping from Danilo Di Luca's grasp with a grim finality on today's long stage to Anagni. This was a stage set up for 'The Killer' who has become a specialist in the Belgian Classics in recent years but instead the spoils went to an actual Belgian, Philipe Gilbert giving the Belgian team, Silence Lotto its first stage win of this year's Giro.

To add insult to injury for Di Luca he saw his rival Denis Menchov steal a couple of seconds back at an intermediate sprint and it would have been worse had Di Luca's LPR teammate Alessandro Petacchi not been on hand to win the sprint.

That meant Di Lucca had to win or place to grab some time bonus seconds back, third would have done nicely because it would have slashed Menchov's lead while denying him the chance of a bonus that was not to be. To make things worse for the Italian, who needed to win and take some bonus seconds back, a break got away.

As the race approached the finish with the peloton lining up for the charge with 2Km to go, all the leaders at the front, Menchov as ever was glued to Di Luca's wheel. A lot of effort had already expended chasing down a four man break that went with 14Km to go, the four: Bartosz Huzarski (ISD), Paulo Tiralongo (Lampre) and Anthony Charteau (Caisse d'Epargne), were at one point nearly 30 seconds up with 5Km to go.

With 1.5Km to go Phillipe Gilbert (Silence Lotto) attacked and Stefano Garzelli (Aqua & Sapone) and Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) went with him, Di Luca and LPR were unable to respond and any thoughts of bonus seconds were put aside.

When it came to the final shakedown Garzelli didn't have the legs for the chase, Voeckler did, but he was never going to out-power Gilbert in what was very much a Belgian classics-style finish. The three mopped up the bonus points.

Given that tomorrow's time trial is only 14.4Km long, 20 seconds could well prove enough for Menchov who of the two contenders for top spot is rated as the stronger time triallist. However it is a slim margin all the same and tomorrow on the streets of Rome we will find out if a week of marking attacks is more energy sapping than making them. The smart money says it's not, but then as the world has learned to its cost in the last few months the smart money isn't always right.

Top 10 Giro d'Italia Stage 20

1) Philippe Gilbert (Silence-Lotto)               4.30.07 (45.091 km/h)
2) Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom)           0.02
3) Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo) 0.07
4) Allan Davis (Quick Step)
5) Sébastien Hinault (AG2R La Mondiale)
6) Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
7) Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Columbia - Highroad)
8) Giovanni Visconti (ISD)
9) Simon Gerrans (Cervelo Test Team)
10)Serge Pauwels (Cervelo Test Team)

Top 10 General Classification after stage 20

1) Denis Menchov (Rabobank)                      85.44.05
2) Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini)        0.20
3) Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)                      1.43
4) Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team)                 2.44
5) Ivan Basso (Liquigas)                             3.37
6) Levi Leipheimer (Astana)                          4.59
7) Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo) 8.44
8) Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad)         9.36
9) Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale)                10.46
10) Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre - N.G.C.)              11.36

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.