Chris Froome has stunned the Giro d'Italia with a performance so incredible that George Bennett couldn't believe it.

The four-time Tour de France champion has closed in on a third consecutive Grand Tour victory, storming back to take the race lead after an unbelievable attack on stage 19.

Froome attacked with 80 kilometres to go, and astonishingly left the rest of the field in his wake, including former leader Simon Yates, who lost 38 minutes on the stage. Froome won the stage by three minutes, completing a remarkable turnaround from earlier in the race, when many thought he should abandon after a shocking start to the Giro.

Bennett crossed the line in 12th, 8.38 behind Froome, to move into ninth overall with two stages remaining. He was flabbergasted when informed of the feat Froome had pulled off.

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"Did he stay away, did Froome stay away?" Bennett quizzed a reporter, who responded that Froome had indeed moved into the race lead, 40 seconds ahead of Tom Dumoulin.

"Bullshit! He did a Landis! Jeeesus," remarked Bennett โ€“ a comment that was quickly construed in several ways online.

"Did a Landis", of course, refers to the famous ride by Floyd Landis on stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. Landis sat in 11th overall, 8.08 down on the leaders, but incredibly attacked with 130 kilometres to go. He won the stage by over five minutes to roar back into a Tour which he ended up winning, three days later.

However, as soon as the Tour ended, the truth came out โ€“ Landis had tested positive for testosterone on that stage, turning a famous victory into an infamous scandal.

Many sceptical commenters applauded Bennett's comments, believing them to be a veiled accusation at Froome, who has his own drug scandal to deal with. Froome failed a doping test at last year's Vuelta a Espana, testing positive for excess levels of salbutamol. That case has yet to be resolved, and many riders believe that Froome shouldn't be racing right now.

However, Bennett's Lotto-NL Jumbo team quickly tried to clarify their position, writing that Bennett's remarks were "not an insinuation, but a way to express the admiration for an exceptional achievement."

Bennett is also on track to make history at the Giro, though he is less amazed about his feat. No Kiwi cyclist has ever finished in the top ten at the Giro, but Bennett was aiming higher.

"I came here for a lot more, ninth, it's a consolation prize I guess. Maybe someone will have another bad day but today I just wasn't good enough โ€“ I can't do anything more than that. You just have to go away and train harder and come back better."

He was frustrated with how things unfolded this morning, forced to do the bulk of the work at the front of his group in a fruitless chase of the leaders. He was left in the third group on the road, behind six riders and alongside another five, but he got little cooperation and that saw his rivals come back into play.

"It was just me and [Domenico Pozzovivo] rolling hard, and everyone else sitting on us, and man, that just killed me. It wasn't working well, it was just everyone trying to get a free ride. I was a bit frustrated I think, and I rode a bit hard through there for sure, and I didn't have much left in the end.

"I felt from the start that I was not super - it just shows, you have to be there on that moment, we were just off, but it was a cool day of racing."

He has one more pivotal mountain stage overnight to try and jump up the classification โ€“ with a top seven spot still a realistic accomplishment, before the race ends with a flat stage around Rome tomorrow.