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Tough going in Giro

Yesterday’s gruelling sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia looks to have sorted the men from the boys after Russian powerhouse Denis Menchov put his hand up for the win.

Rabobank’s Menchov was in a class of his own in the closing stages of the 125 kilometre stage, which featured a 24.9 kilometre pull before finishing at an altitude of 1,844 metres.

The new maglia rosa (overall leader) is Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) while Swedish revelation Thomas L├Âvkvist (Team Columbia-Highroad), Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Levi Leipheimer (Astana) and Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) are all up in contention.

Even seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong showed signs of weakness on the punishing pull but don’t write him off although it’s likely that he and Chris Horner will sacrifice their own chances for that of fellow American teammate Leipheimer, who only seems to be getting better with age, and is perhaps Di Luca’s most serious threat.

“I can’t jump with Di Luca. He’s really explosive,” said Leipheimer, fourth overall at 43 seconds behind Di Luca. “Lance, I think he’s doing very well; I saw him two weeks ago and I think he’s doing much better.”

Said Armstrong of his goal Wednesday, ‘We just had to ride our tempo and limit our losses to maybe two minutes – it turned out to be three [minutes] but that’s okay. Like I said in the beginning, the first half [of the race] is not going to be my half. I can’t expect to be in the front.’

‘I knew before the Giro we had two important stages [in the first week]; my preparation was such that I knew I had to be strong in the beginning,’ said Menchov, now 50 seconds off Di Luca in fifth overall.

‘The stage was like I expected. Liquigas and LPR were very strong; Liquigas forced a really hard tempo in the beginning of the climb as Basso isn’t a rider who can change his rhythm often, and it wasn’t a surprise to see him sit on the front for the last five kilometres.’

As far the South African interest goes John-Lee Augustyn placed 40th Wednesday, 2min 58sec down the field and is 28th overall (4:26 back). He’s also slipped down to fourth in the young rider classification.

It was another long day for Augustyn’s fellow South African, Robbie Hunter who came in 152nd, 16:53 behind.

Hunter’s now 174th for the 194 riders that remain in the race, 45min 30sec off the pace, while the Barloworld team are handily placed third in the team category, just 3:35 behind leaders Astana.

‘It wasn’t too bad today,’ said Hunter.’Tomorrow (Thursday) is a long stage! Mauricio Soler (teammate) felt his effort from yesterday & was not 100% but I’m sure he will be up it!


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