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Rodriguez claws back lead to set up TT showdown
May 27th, 12. The penultimate Giro d'Italia stage saw the Maglia Rosa leader fight back precious seconds ahead of tomorrow's Grand Tour finale.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) claimed back the time Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) stole from him in the previous stage to ensure a fierce showdown when the tour hits Milan tomorrow.
Rodriguez finished 4th in today's Stage 20, a tough 219km trek from Caldes to Passo dello Stelvio won in a solo victory by Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM).
Significantly, Rodriguez finished 14secs ahead of Hesjedal, clawing back much of the lead his rival had diminished yesterday.
With one stage left to race, a 30.1km time trial around the streets of Milan, Rodriguez has a 31sec buffer over the Canadian who is better suited to time trials than the Spaniard.
"I'm happy with today's performance," said Rodriguez. "I managed to gain some precious seconds over Hesjedal: but I think he's still the favourite because 31sec is not such a great gap and he's better than me in races against the clock."
"For sure I'll do my best in order to make this dream come true, also because I think I have no other rivals: the others are quite far, also De Gendt which today was protagonist of a great performance and he's an ITT specialist is 2m18s behind, which should be enough."
"I need a miracle, still, everything can happen, especially after such two difficult stages, where both Hesjedal and me spent many energies. That's the reason why I believe I still have some chances."
Rodriguez attacked twice on the Mortirolo climb, the fourth categorised climb of the stage with more than 60km to go, but his efforts produced no results.
De Gendt moved away from the pink jersey-group on the dreadedl Mortirolo ascent and rode solo to the finish to cross the line 55sec ahead of Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD).
De Gendt went close to the virtual leadership before Hesjedal and Rodriguez started reacting from behind.
When Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) tried his luck with a little more than 1km to go, Rodriguez let the Italian slipstream Hesjedal before he attacked once again and finally managed to gain some seconds over his rivals.
The Spaniard's late surge came at the detriment of Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) who finished comfortably in the gruppetto, but was forced to relinquish the red points jersey by a single point to the tour leader.
Tomorrow's final stage is a flat 30km individual time trial around the streets of Milan, the results of which will see the Maglia Rosa rest on the shoulders of the 2012 Giro d'Italia champion.
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