Richard Carapaz of Movistar stands on the cusp of overall glory at the 2019 Giro d’Italia after successfully defending his overall lead in stages 19-20 of the race.  While Esteban Chaves of Mitchelton-SCOTT and Pello Bilbao of Astana took stage honours, Carapaz put more time into key time trial rival Primož Roglič on the eve of the race against the clock.

Chaves redeems Mitchelton-SCOTT’s Giro with emotional win

Stages 19 and 20 were the last big mountain hurdles before the final 17km time trial to Verona.  Richard Carapaz of Movistar has been the surprise wearer of the maglia rosa to this point although none can deny that he utterly deserves it with his confident and competent performances that have so far bagged him two stage wins as well.  

Stage 19 from Treviso to San Martino di Castrozza had the potential to be a hiccup for the GC contenders – Carapaz included – in just a short 151km of racing.  The stage had little by way of challenge until the final 19km, where the road gradually ramped upwards until the final 13.3km climb proper.  The day lured a breakaway as expected with Esteban Chaves the most notable name in the move.  Together with Manuele Boaro of Astana, Marco Marcato of UAE Team Emirates, the Nippo-Vini Fantini duo of Marco Canola and Ivan Santaromita, Oliver Le Gac of Groupama-FDJ, Bradiani-CSF’s Manuele Senni, Andrea Vendrame of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, François Bidard of AG2R La Mondiale, Pieter Serry of Deceuninck-Quick Step and Amaro Antunes of CCC Team the break of the day was quickly established.

With the blessing of the peloton – led by Movistar as expected – the break were given free rein to contest stage honours, with no GC threats up the road.  With 120km to go the break’s lead was touching 6.40mins and that continued to grow up to a very handy 9 minute lead, virtually guaranteeing that the stage’s winner would come from the break somehow.

Esteban Chaves redeemed a disappointing Giro for Mitchelton-SCOTT with victory in stage 19, photo Sirotti

Predictably it would be the final climb of the day that would decide the destination of the stage victory.  Surprisingly, given that Mitchelton-SCOTT had such a prominent race in 2018, the team have been rather more subdued this time around and had been unable to pick up a stage all race.  This was something Esteban Chaves was determined to make right.  After Mikel Nieve had come close to glory in stage 13, the Colombian was eager not to be denied this time around.

With 35km to go the break’s lead went up to 9.25 minutes and the first attack from the break went clear.  Manuele Boaro launched the attack and quickly built a 14 second lead over his breakaway companions.  Chaves was quick to respond, taking the initiative to bring the Italian back and gradually the break brought Boaro back until he was caught with just under 20km to go.

Next to go up the road was Marco Canola, attacking towards the base of the climb proper.  While Canola’s move was unsuccessful in the end, it did spell the end of allegiances in the breakaway as Pieter Serry and Olivier Le Gac launched counter moves.  All the while, though, it was Chaves that had everyone’s attention as the favourite for stage honours.  Canola remained ahead with over 8km to go but Chaves was leading a pursuit that featured Bidard, Vendrame and Serry and at 8km to go the catch was made and stage honours were up for grabs.

With 5km to go Bidard showed signs of struggle but it was interesting that a couple of extra names were able to get back on board in the form of Antunes and Carboni.  The attacks continued to come, however, as back down the road Astana marshalled themselves at the front of the peloton, driving the pace forward.  Andrea Vendrame’s race was brought to an abrupt halt with a mechanical issue that he managed to amend reasonably quickly, and with the pace going on and off up ahead he had a chance to get back on board.

2.5km from the finish Chaves made his move and launched for the line.  Serry and Bidard were the last men to lose contact with him, and it looked like they were contesting 2nd and 3rd place but gradually Vendrame, Carboni and Antunes clawed their way back.  Down the road Miguel Angel Lopez went on the offensive, bringing the creme to the fore again as Vincenzo Nibali, Primož Roglič, Richard Carapaz, Mikel Landa, Rafal Majka and more all went in pursuit.  The Colombian had daylight, however, and was committed to gaining time with just two days left to race.

Up ahead, Chaves arrived at 1km to go with 15 seconds in hand and he was looking almost certain of the stage win.  The chasers were closing, though, and the Colombian had to keep the pace up all the way to the line but he’d done enough to secure the win; finally being able to sit up and savour the moment as he won stage 19.  10 seconds later an unfortunate Andrea Vendrame crossed the line in second place; wondering what might have been ahead of Antunes. 

In the fight for pink and time in the GC standings Miguel Angel Lopez ended up gaining 44 seconds overall, moving him to within 5.33mins of Carapaz and 3.17mins of a podium place overall with two days to go.  The rest of the GC contenders all arrived virtually together, with Simon Yates and Ilnur Zakarin conceding 4 seconds.

Jack Bauer in action during stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia, photo Sirotti

Bilbao wins as Lopez loses time and temper

And so to the final mountain stage of the 2019 Giro d’Italia.  194km from Feltre to Croce D’Aune-Monte Avena and a brutal day of racing ahead.  Five categorised climbs, including two category 1 climbs featured en route with the finish being a comparatively short rise, but averaging 7.7% gradient.  Lose no time today and Carapaz was almost guaranteed victory with just the 17km individual time trial to come.

As expected the stage would be fought in two parts: the battle for stage honours and the battle for GC success.  The stage was contested by a number of riders wanting to form a breakaway, but eventually a move went up the road with Andrey Amador of Movistar, Pello Bilbao and Dario Cataldo of Astana, Eros Capecchi of Deceuninck-Quick Step, Ilnur Zakarin of Katusha-Alpecin, Eddie Dunbar of Team Ineos, Mikel Nieve of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Jai Hindley of Team Sunweb, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier of Dimension Data, Damiano Caruso of Bahrain-Merida and Fausto Masnada of Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec.  The break gradually built a lead that went out over the 4.20min mark with 125km to go; while it was Masnada who opted to try and go solo, cementing his win in the sprint classification and the combativity classification.

The race was on very early on from the GC contenders.  After BORA-Hansgrohe initially helped with the chase alongside Movistar, Astana once again lit the torch, but this time very early on.  With less than 120km to go Miguel Angel Lopez surged forward, drawing the GC favourites out very early on.  His acceleration so quickly resulted in just Carapaz and Landa being able to go with him, with Vincenzo Nibali, Primož Roglič and Pavel Sivakov forming a chase trio behind them. 

At the top of the Passo Manghen, Masnada was out in front on his own with a lead of just over 1.30mins ahead of the rest of the breakaway group, but at the summit that breakaway group had been caught by Landa, Lopez and Carapaz and they had teammates to support them in the pursuit of time on Nibali, Roglič and co.  Nibali and Roglič were able to make up ground on the descent, though, rejoining the maglia rosa as the break also caught up with Masnada.

After a bit of uncertainty among the breakaway group Movistar made their way forward to lead the group that wasn’t too concerned by the likes of Simon Yates and co regaining contact with them.  Meanwhile at the front of the race a new group had formed with Mikel Nieve, Eddie Dunbar, Pello Bilbao, Tanel Kangert of EF Education First and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier.  They built a lead of 1.28mins with 92km to go and were steadily allowed to build that advantage.

Attacking from the GC group went Giulio Ciccone of Trek-Segafredo who was virtually assured of victory in the king of the mountains classification along with Groupama-FDJ’s Valentin Madouas.  They managed to bridge across to the leaders whose lead over the maglia rosa group went out to over 3 minutes with 67km to go.

Pello Bilbao claimed stage 20 after out-sprinting the magnolia rosa and GC favourites, photo Sirotti

Ciccone took maximum points over the Passo Rolle with the break’s lead at 2.25mins while behind them the GC group had swelled nicely with all the contenders present.  Only two climbs – plus the one in the individual time trial – remained of this year’s Giro d’Italia.  Ciccone’s lead was insurmountable in the classification and he only needed to finish to assure himself of the win.  But Ciccone wasn’t content to waltz into Verona with the blue jersey, however, and he proceeded to attack the breakaway group with 20km to go; sparking the end of the break’s work together.

Movistar continued to lead the peloton that was a little over 1.30mins back and closing; for the first time in a while appearing like they could contend for the stage honours as well as time over one another.  The gap stabilised, however, at 140mins with 14km to go but it was an attack from Mikel Landa that proceeded to light up the race behind the break and saw the gap to the leaders begin to dissolve.

Landa was fighting for a place on the podium, and the pressure was on Primož Roglič, the rider in front of Landa in the GC standings.  The Slovenian had nothing to chase with, though, and instead it was Nibali who took up the chase.  At the top of the penultimate climb Madouas had attacked the rest of the break and built a 17 second lead over the group.  Mikel Landa was 46 seconds behind the Frenchman, with the maglia rosa group 17 seconds further back; and all to play for.

After a short descent the final climb began with 6.4km to go.  Madouas’ lead was down to 20 seconds but there was drama behind him.  At the foot of the climb Miguel Angel Lopez was knocked off of his bike by a spectator.  The incident saw the Colombian lash out in retaliation as up ahead Nibali and Carapaz joined Mikel Landa.  The race was at full flight and Nibali was attacking his Movistar rivals, picking up the breakaway remnants as he did so; but Miguel Angel Lopez had lost almost a minute on the maglia rosa as he chased to limit his losses.

Miguel Angel Lopez suffered cruel bad luck by being knocked off his bike by a spectator, photo Sirotti

Nibali attacked repeatedly, in part to try and distance the Movistar duo and in part to try and gain time on Primož Roglič.  The intensity from Nibali saw the trio join the front of the race with a little over 2km to go.  From there Movistar once more surged forward with the prospect of Landa gaining time and potentially an extra place on the podium the motivation.

With 1km to go Lopez was 1.30mins back on the road, with Roglič about 40 seconds behind.  Carapaz played supporter for Landa, taking up the pace to try and put his teammate on the podium and potentially line up a stage win for the Spaniard.  With 500m to go Carapaz was still in the lead as the group steadily thinned out.  Landa eventually hit out for the sprint with Pello Bilbao the only rider to be able to go with him.  Bilbao had the pace to come through and take the stage, however, with Landa taking second and the valiant Ciccone third.  

From there time proceeded to tick on as Simon Yates and Primož Roglič gave 48 seconds and 54 seconds up respectively, and Miguel Angel Lopez ended up conceding 1.49mins after his terrible misfortune.  Overall there were no changes in the top of the standings apart from Mikel Landa moving up to 3rd overall, 23 seconds ahead of Roglič.  Lopez lost time, now sitting 7.18mins behind Carapaz, but held onto the white jersey and to 6th overall.

With one day remaining Jack Bauer sits 95th overall, having supported Simon Yates throughout the last 20 stages of the Giro d’Italia.


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