The Giro d’Italia will have a heavy Australian accent Sunday when the 93rd edition wraps up with Verona’s 15km TT.
Three Australians all but assured themselves of podium spots after locking up their respective jerseys in Saturday’s hard-fought stage over the Gavia in the Giro’s penultimate stage.
Ritchie Porte (Saxo Bank) looks solid in the young rider’s white jersey, Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) wrapped up the green King of the Mountains jersey and Cadel Evans (BMC) secured the red points jersey.
In the fight for the red jersey, Evans shot ahead to take second on the stage, giving him 136 points to Alexander Vinokourov’s 112 points. Evans started the stage leading Vinokourov, 116-105.
“I was attacking today to win the stage, but having the jersey is something nice from this Giro,” said Evans, fifth overall at 3:47 back. “I was hoping to do better in the GC, but Liquigas has been very strong. I hope to win the final time trial in Verona.”
Lloyd snuck into the day’s winning breakaway to recapture the green jersey, which he had held since winning stage 6 but lost to Basso in Friday’s stage. Basso led going into Saturday with 35 points to Lloyd’s 29.
Lloyd actually raced in the green jersey Saturday because Basso had the pink jersey. He attacked out of the break to grab first-place points up the Cat. 1 Forcola climb to secure the jersey and ended the day leading 56-41.
“People thought it was over yesterday for me. That gave me even more inspiration to step it up another level today,” Lloyd said after the stage. “Getting away at the start was perfect. I was able to take the sprints and I was able to pick up points. I wasn’t interested in the stage win, but I needed the points.”
Lloyd is poised to become the first Australian to win the Giro’s prestigious King of the Mountains jersey.
That’s good news for his Omega Pharma-Lotto team, which leaves this Giro with one stage victory and a podium spot with Lloyd.
“We wanted to have a touchdown in this Giro, and we made a very big touchdown with this jersey with Lloyd,” said Omega Pharma sport director Roberto Damiani. “For Matthew and for the team, it’s incredible, because it’s a jersey that we hunted today for the great courage. It’s a dream come true to win a jersey so important. Today was the day we had to be in the escape. I said to him, the escapes were going, if you have legs, now is the moment.”
Even more impressive was grand tour rookie Porte, who moved up to sixth overall at 7:25 back. He leads Robert Kiserlovski (Liquigas) by 6:41 in the young rider’s competition.
“I’ve been on a fantastic journey for me and for the whole team. Actually, I am just happy to hang out with experienced and great riders on our team. On top of that, I have achieved something I previously would never even dream of,” said Porte, who also wore pink for three days. “Tomorrow’s TT suits me but it will be interesting to see what’s left in the legs after three weeks of extreme racing but there is no pressure on my shoulders at all and I will enjoy the last stage of the race.”
The only rider stopping the Aussie sweep of the podium is pink jersey Ivan Basso (Liquigas).
It would take nothing short of catastrophe for an Aussie to take pink in Sunday’s TT. It’s hard to imagine Evans taking back 3:47 in 15km and bounce ahead of three Italians and one Spaniard on GC.