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2012 Giro d'Italia Standings: Thomas De Gendt Takes Stage 20 And Almost Steals The Race, Rodriguez Retains Lead

Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil) made a bid to steal the 2012 Giro d'Italia in stage 20, riding away up the slopes of the Stelvio and putting a gap of over five minutes into his GC rivals. De Gendt hadn't been mentioned much in the overall win conversation, as he was over five minutes out of the lead, a massive amount of time to make up in one stage. De Gendt obviously wasn't listening to that conversation, as he put in a spectacular effort and couldn't have done more to bolster his chances.

De Gendt motored away from the bunch midway through the race and built a serious gap, and it wasn't until the close of the final climb that the GC leaders finally got their act together and began a serious chase. With only 2km to go, De Gendt still had five minutes over the top three: race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), and defending champion Michele Scarponi (Lampre). Hesjedal was especially concerned, as he's counting on his advantage in Sunday's time trial to deliver him the race. If De Gendt made it far enough up the standings, Hesjedal would have much stronger competition in the final stage of the race.

Ultimately, De Gendt may have only the stage win to show for his efforts. Rodriguez, Hesjedal and Scarponi all drove as hard as they could to chase down De Gendt. Scarponi attacked his fellow leaders first, building up a small gap, but Rodriguez counter-attacked and was able to pass him in the final kilometer. De Gendt, who opened the day 5:40 seconds out of the lead, gained 3:22 on Rodriguez. Scarponi finished 12 seconds behind Rodriguez, and Hesjedal two seconds behind Scarponi. Hesjedal has to be pleased with losing only lost 14 seconds to the race leader, as it puts him in place to take the race in the time trial.

The provisional GC standings after stage 20:

1) Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 91:04:16
2) Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda 0:00:31
3) Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:01:51
4) Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:02:18
5) Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:18
6) Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:03:43
7) Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:04:52
8) Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago - CSF Inox 0:05:47

Rodriguez has come close to winning a grand tour before, only to have it snatched away at the last moment. Hesjedal is a stronger time trial rider than the race leader, so if Rodriguez wants to avoid that fate again he'll need the ride of his life on Sunday.

Stay tuned to this storystream for previews, updates and more from the 2012 Giro d'Italia. As always, SB Nation's cycling blog Podium Cafe has you covered for full time news and analysis.