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Scarponi’s second stage

Michele Scarponi raced to his second stage win of the 92nd Giro d’Italia on Thursday.

The Serramenti PVIC Diquigiovanni rider took full advantage of the fact that the general classification leaders rested their legs as best they could on the 182-kilometre 18th stage between Sulmona and Benevento.

That’s because Friday’s stage, as the tour nears its completion, is a toughie, a 165km slog around the ankle of Italy’s ‘boot’ and the riders complete their struggle atop Mount Vesuvius.

Scarponi’s win means that just six teams have had a stage win in this edition of the tour.

‘After [Stage 16 to] Monte Petrano, I had a crisis of sorts and was without energy. But today, my energy returned,’ Scarponi told Cyclingnews.com.

‘I was really good; I had good legs. Today was very special; it was my first stage win in Italy at the Giro, because the last one was in Austria. To win at the Giro has always been a dream of mine, so I’m really happy,” he said, whose team manager Gianni Savio later indicated that he’s keen to renew Scarponi’s contract for another season.

Meanwhile at the business end of the Giro , there are still six riders in with a genuine chance of topping the final podium in Rome on Sunday.

Rabobank’s Denis Menchov , the week-old maglia rosa, intends to keep what he came here for.

‘I expect a hard day tomorrow,’ said Menchov, stating the obvious, but adding he remembers the climb to Mount Vesuvius well, despite having previewed it only once before. Until now, he’s ridden the climbs the only way he knows how. It’s a defensive style not unlike Tour de France champion Miguel Indurain, where, in each of his five wins, the Spaniard took the race lead after a long time trial, followed his rivals in the mountains, then crushed his lighter-weight opponents in the final time trial. From Friday to Sunday, Menchov’s likely to do the same.

Just 26 seconds behind Menchov is 2007 Giro champion Danilo Di Luca. ‘l Killer di Spoltore’ isn’t a man who gives up on a fight, and don’t expect Friday to be any different for the LPR leader.

Equally, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas has shown he, too, has the mettle to put the favourites in a spot of bother, the Blockhaus conquistador two minutes behind Menchov and holding the joker card of teammate Ivan Basso, fourth overall at 3:28.

And at least for a spot on the final podium, it would be erroneous to write off Cervelo TestTeam’s Carlos Sastre. Only two seconds behind Basso on the classifica generale and able to cause trouble.

Robbie Hunter and John-Lee Augustyn finished 50th and 56th overall on Thursday — 3min 57sec behind the leader — and the South African Barloworld riders are now 3hr 40min 24sec (77th) and 2:11:35 (145th) in the general classification.

Said Hunter last night: ‘One more down, just two to go… Felix Cardenas (Barloworld) might be getting on but he is still a sly old dog. His second today was a good job! Two second places for our team is not bad!’


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