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New top 5 on GC

1. Egan Bernal
2. Damiano Caruso +2'29"
3. Simon Yates +2'49"
4. Aleksandr Vlasov +6'11"
5. Hugh Carthy +7'10"
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Bardet, Martinez, Almeids, Foss and Martin make up the top 10.

Today's top 10

1. Simon Yates
2. Joao Almeida +11
3. Egan Bernal +28
4. Damiano CAruso +32
5. Aleksandr Vlasov +32
6. Dan Martin +42
7. Dani Martinez +49
8. Koen Bouwman +1'25"
9. Tobias Foss +1'25"
10. Romain Bardet +1'25"
That was a first stage win of the race for Team BikeExchange who were riding for it from the outset there for Yates.

Simon Yates wins Stage 19

Three years after he imploded in Stage 19 of the 2018 Giro while in pink, Yates draws a line under that setback with his first victory in this race after an expert ride up the Alpe di Mera. He finishes 11 seconds clear of Joao Almeida and 28 seconds clear of Egan Bernal, who will increase his lead over second-place Damiano Caruso after some expert crisis management on that final climb.

Last kilometre

Now it's the Portuguese Joao Almeida who drives the chase - he doesn't want to miss out on another potential stage win. He and Bernal are 16 seconds down as they go under the flamme rouge. Almeida, amazingly, has never won a pro race before and has three times come second in stages on the Giro. It could well be four very soon, because he's dropped Bernal...

2km to go: Bernal accelerates

Well, I'd like to suffer more of the kind of crises Bernal faces! Once Martinez peels off, the Colombian kicks clear to drop Vlasov and Caruso. Almeida fades but then battles back onto the wheel. They ride in tandem in pursuit of the leader, Yates, who is 18 seconds clear. Remember there are 10-6-4 bonus seconds up for grabs at the finish, too.

3km to go: Carthy dropped

Superb crisis management, this, from Bernal, as he rides in teammate Martinez's wheel as his rivals, one by one, pop. Carthy is the next to be dropped. The pink jersey has Caruso, Almeida and Vlasov behind, while Yates's lead is now down to 20 seconds. This stage isn't over just yet.

3.5km to go: Bernal warming up

The immediate panic is over for the Colombian. He's in Martinez's wheel as they ride back to Caruso, Carthy and Almeida. Vlasov is next, while Dan Martin has been dropped. Yates still has 30 seconds to play with - but has he gone too early?

4.5km to go: Trio chase Yates

George Bennett has been dropped from the chase group, which has Joao Almeida, Damiano Caruso and Aleksandr Vlasov in it. They trail Yates, the lone leader, by 17 seconds. And now Hugh Carthy has ridden clear of the Bernal group, which is 22 seconds down. So the gaps are still very small.

5.5km to go: Yates attacks! Bernal in trouble!

Simon Yates now rides clear of a leading group which already has 20 seconds on the maglia rosa group. This is very interesting... The Colombian is keeping his cool and may be simply riding to limit his losses - knowing that he has a 3'21" cushion over the British rider. But it's a dangerous game, what with tomorrow's mammoth stage and the final time trial still to come.

6.2km to go: Yates makes his move

Simon Yates decides to react and he takes Caruso, Vlasov and George Bennett with him. They join Almeida but there's no reaction behind from Bernal, who is not panicking and instead rides at his own tempo behind teammates Martinez and Castroviejo.

6.8km to go: Almeida goes clear

Once Knox sits up after his stint on the front, teammate Almeida just rides on ahead - with no response from Jonathan Castroviejo, who fronts the pack behind. So, the Portuguese is allowed to open up a small gap over the maglia rosa pack, which is down to around 20 riders.

7.5km to go: Christian caught

The last man standing has been caught by the slimming pack which has Quick-Step duo James Knox and Joao Almeida driving the pace. Ineos are tucked in behind with four riders, then Simon Yates's BikeExchange. Riders constantly been spat out the back - perhaps just 30 or 40 riders now. Carthy is near the back...

9km to go: Bettiol dropped

Yesterday's stage winner Alberto Bettiol has already been dropped, which isn't good news for his EF Education-Nippo teammate Hugh Carthy. Meanwhile, it's pretty much all over for the break. Their lead was down to 20 seconds at the start of the climb and now only amrk Christian remains off the front after a little dig.

10km to go: Alpe di Mera

We're onto the final climb, which is being used for the first time in Giro history. It's a 9.2km test at 9% with a maximum ramp of 14%. It's not entirely dissimilar to Wednesday's final climb, the Sega di Ala, where Bernel showed his first signs of weakness. The Colombian has recce'd this one many times before the race, so he'll know what to expect. Rumour has it the locals put another letter in the name of this climb, making it the Alpe di Merda.

15km to go: under a minute

It looks like the breakaway will be caught wither just before or during the opening kilometre of the climb. Their lead is down to 50 seconds now. On the front of the pack its Pieter Serry ahead of the aforementioned Meyer. Then we have James Knox and Joao Almeida ahead of the Ineos train, who are followed by Damiano Caruso (second on GC) and three of his Bahrain-Victorious teammates.
Mark Christian. meanwhile, just won the intermediate sprint at Scopetta - with all prize money today going to the families of the cable car tragedy from last weekend.

20km to go: De Bondt cameo

The Belgian champion Dries De Bondt pops up on the front of the peloton - of course he does - to chat to some of his pals and lend a hand to Deceuninck Quick-Step. He's replaced by the Australian champion Cameron Meyer who comes through for BikeExchange to add some fire power. We have 10km to the foot of the climb with the second intermediate sprint just before.

26km to go: Cobbles!

Rather aptly, it's Quick-Step Varallo who lead the pack up a steep and very unexpected cobbled climb in Varallo. Rob Hatch brands it the "Koppenberg" while Sean Kelly's one-word assessment is "horrible". The gap is 1'15" for the five leaders: Warbasse, Aleotti, Christian, Hermans and Pasqualon.

32km to go: Deceuninck again

Four riders from the Belgian team are leading the peloton down this descent with the Ineos train just behind with their man in pink, Egan Bernal. It remains to be seen if these rumours about his back are real or not. We'll find out pretty soon on the final climb... The break still has 1'05" as they hit the false flat running to the foot of Alpe di Mera.

38km to go: Warbasse takes KOM points

Deceuninck Quick-Step and BikeExchange are really going for it today with the latter's veteran Basque climber, Mikel Nieve, now on the front and riding hard - just as he did on the peniltimate climb on Wednesday. Bradley Wiggins, in the Eurosport studio, seemed to infer that he'd heard through the gravevine that Egan Bernal's back was causing the Colombian some gip - so this hefty pace would all contribute to putting the maglia rosa under the cosh on the final climb.
Bernal may have a comfy gap but this Giro is still far from over. That said, we shouldn't read too much into Chinese whispers - because it's Ineos who are now on the front as the chasing pack approach the summit. It was Warbasse who took the maximum 9pts over the top of the break, whose lead is down to just one minute now.

42km to go: Bouchard dropped

One of the riders distanced is the blue jersey Geoffrey Bouchard, who won't be adding any KOM points to his tally today. Nicola Venchiarutti, meanwhile, has been distanced by his fellow escapees so the break is down to five riders.

45km to go: Cat.3 Passo della Colma

We're well onto the second climb of the day, which is 8.1km at 5.8%. The pack has already split in two with a gruppetto forming off the back following this severe pace being set by Quick-Step and BikeExchange. The gap of the six leaders is tumbling, too.

50km to go: CRASH! Brambilla out

There's a touch of wheels near the back of the pack on a sweeping uphill bend ahead of the next climb - and Gianluca Brambilla is one of the riders who has gone down. And it doesn't look good for the Italian from Trek-Segafredo, who is forced to withdraw from this Giro.

55km to go: peloton back together

Ganna and Puccio managed to drag that second peloton back on with the help of Juan Sebastian Molano, which suggests UAE Team Emirates' Davide Formolo got caught out by the split as well. The gap for the six leaders has crept back up to 2'10" after that easing of tempo following the connection.

60km to go: Ganna drops back to help Martinez

Filippo Ganna, who was in the first group with Bernal, has dropped back to join up with Salvatore Puccio to help pace Dani Martinez back to the fold after that split. It will come back but it will take a lot of energy because Quick-Step continue to go at it hammer and tongs. This increase in tempo has signed the death-knell for the break, whose lead is down to under two minutes.

65km to go: Bernal isolated after descent

Quick-Step are pulling hard with BikeExchange because of this split in the peloton, which has caught out a number of Ineos Grenadiers including Dani Martinez. The Colombian is in seventh place on GC - one place ahead of Joao Almeida - and he's also Bernal's key lieutenant for the mountains. That explains why those two teams are piling on the pressure.

70km to go: Quick-Step really pushing it

Iljo Keisse and Mikel Honore have really strung out the peloton on this descent - causing numerous splits on these twisting hairpin bends. It will be interesting to see if anyone gets on the wrong side of this...
Pasqualon, meanwhile, wins the intermediate sprint at Baveno, but the advantage of the six leaders is now under three minutes.

75km to go: four minutes for break

The six leaders are zipping down this technical, twisting descent towards the shores of the glistening Lago Maggiore. Behind, Iljo Keisse has come to the front to set the tempo, which suggests Deceuninck Quick-Step fancy setting things up for their man Joao Almeida today. The Portuguese came within 13 seconds of winning on Wednesday but couldn't catch Ireland's Dan Martin on Sega di Ala.

82km to go: Christian takes KOM points

It's the Briton Mark Christian who takes the maximum 3pts over the top of the climb ahead of Venchiarutti and Pasqualon - not that this will make any difference in the blue jersey standings, which Geoffrey Bouchard leads with 180pts to Egan Bernal's 109pts.

95km to go: Cat.4 Alpe Agogna

We're onto the first categorised climb of the day, the fourth-category Alpe Agogna, which rises up from Lago Maggiore for 12.8km towards Gignese at a gentle average gradient of 2.9%. It has been brought in to replace the climb of La Mottarone, which has been cancelled out of respect for those who died during the tragic cable car incident last weekend.
It's feed time for the riders who pick up musettes with water and snacks. The gap for the leaders is 3'20" with Riesebeek no longer chasing and back with the bunch.

100km to go: Zoccarato caught

The Bardiani potato-chaser has been reeled in by the pack after his last-ditch attempt to join the breakaway. Riesebeek continues his lone pursuit of the six leaders, who are over a small hill that precedes the first climb of the day. They have 3'50" over the peloton.

Close but no cigar for Cavagna...

Remi Cavagna came close to a maiden Giro stage win only to be denied by a resplendent Alberto Bettiol in Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia. But could the Frenchman had held on if he’d waited a bit longer before putting in his attack? Some thoughts (in the link below) on the calm before the storm as the GC battle took a back seat on the run to Stradella yesterday. Personally, while most of yesterday's longest stage on the race was quite boring and uneventful, the battle to make the break was compelling stuff, while that four hills finale offered up one of the most exciting finishes of this Giro.

110km to go: Team BikeExchange take it up

Just as we saw on Wednesday's Stage 17, it's the BikeExchange teammates of Simon Yates who have come to the front to regulate the tempo and keep the break in check. They won't want the leaders to take too much time because they'll hope Yates can not only steal a march on Egan Bernal in the fight for pink but can win the team's first stage of this race. Can Yates do a Chris Froome today? Here's Bradley Wiggins' take:
Zoccarato, meanwhile, has almost caught Riesebeek but they're still almost a minute down on the six men ahead, whose lead over the pack is up to 3'35".

115km to go: This is it

But what is 'it', exactly? The calibre of this break - and I mean no disrespect - is such that it will surely not go anywhere near the distance. They have 30 seconds on that man Riesebeek, with another rider - Samuele Zoccarato of Bardiani-CSF - at 1'30" after no doubt getting an earful in his radio earpiece for missing the move. The pack, meanwhile is three minutes in arrears.
Further to that comment on the calibre of the break: I think this is the first time I have typed the names Aleotti, Venchiarutti and Riesebeek during all these Giro live blogs - so that gives you an idea of their usual attacking panache. That says, it only takes one strike at the right time to hit the jackpot. So who am I do sow any seeds of disrespect from the comfort of my office chair...?

120km to go: Is this it?

The stokes of the pendulum seem to have swung un favour of the six-man break as the peloton sits up and lets the move go - with just the one man managing to extricate himself in pursuit of the leaders. That man is Oscar Riesebeek of Alpecin-Fenix and he's doing his best to bridge over to Larry Warbasse (Ag2R-Citroen), Nicola Venchiarutti (Androni-Giacattoli), Giovanni Aleotti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mark Christian (Eolo-Kometa), and the Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert duo, Quinten Hermans and Andrea Pasqualon.

125km to go: another six go clear

The reasons for the uncertainty and stress are quite obvious: tomorrow's stage is super hard and is followed by the final time trial and so today, even though it's a tough final climb, represents the last chance for many riders - indeed, many teams - to salvage something from this race. As such, the pace has been ferociously high: an average of 53kmph so far. The latest development is a six-man move instigated by Larry Warbasse of Ag2R-Citroen. But there are still other riders trying to get into the mix, so it remains to be seen if this one sticks.

135km to go: gruppo compatto

It's all back together again after those five riders - despite holding a gap of 10 seconds going through the centre of Novara - are reeled in on a long, straight, flat, non-descript road leading out of town. So, we go again...

140km to go: five clear in Novara

De Bondt has been joined by his teammate Louis Vervaeke in a quintet off the front. Also there are Eduardo Sepulveda (Androni Giacattoli), Fabio Felline (Astana-Premier Tech) and Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert). Pasqualon seems to have been in as many breaks as De Bondt this past week or so. They had one rider trying to bridge over but his potato-chase came to nothing.

145km to go: the fight continues

After a trio came to nothing, Movistar tried to force an opening for their man Einer Rubio and then Ag2R-Citroen had a man on the front with Cesare Benedetti of Bora on his wheel. More came over and then the strung-out peloton latched on, so it was back to zero again. The race is rampaging towards the city of Novara, which is where Stage 2 finished almost three weeks ago. Tim Merlier won that stage - and it's his Alpecin-Fenix teammate De Bondt who is now trying to lead the pack back into town and force a gap.

150km to go: De Bondt rallies group

A group of around 15 riders has gone clear and the Belgian champion Dries De Bondt is urging them to all contribute and pull. No one of any GC significance is here - Davide Formolo the best placed at almost half an hour - but Ineos Grenadiers are not pleased and they're pulling on the front of the peloton.

158km to go: fast and furious opening

Nothing has stuck so far although Alexis Gougeard has been very active. He seems to be trying to set things up for his Ag2R-Citroen teammate Geoffrey Bouchard, the blue jersey, and swings an arm in frustration when he sees that his compatriot is not following his wheel. Bouchard could sew up the KOM competition today if he gets enough points.

166km to go: Stage 19 under way

After a slight delay, Stefano Allocchio waves his flag to start this key stage - and we have attacks from the outset, most notably from Trek-Segafredo. They lost their GC man Giulio Ciccone two days ago and so it's no surprise to see Vicenzo Nibali's teammates on the offensive today.

Riders in the neutral zone ahead of today's key stage

Three climbs and a summit finish on the tortuous Alpe de Mera should reignite the GC battle after a day off for the maglia rosa and his rivals. Here's what's on the menu today...
The course has been slightly tweaked following the tragic cable car crash last weekend, which has seen the organisers pull the planned first climb of La Mottarone and replace it with an easier fourth-category ascent, the Gignese. Below is what the stage looked like originally... so we've also lost 12km in distance.

Giro d'Italia 2021, stage 19

Image credit: Eurosport

GC standings

  • 1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 77:10:18
  • 2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious +2:21
  • 3. Simon Yates (GB) Team BikeExchange +3:23
  • 4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech +6:03
  • 5. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education-Nippo +6:09
  • 6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM +6:31
  • 7. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers +7:17
  • 8. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep +8:45
  • 9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma +9:18
  • 10. Dan Martin (Ire) Israel Start-Up Nation +13:37

Stage 18 recap - Bettiol wins as Bernal defends pink

One day after EF Education-Nippo leader Hugh Carthy dropped to six minutes down in the general classification, the Briton’s mountain lieutenant was given the green light to go for glory. And didn’t Alberto Bettiol do well.
Taking his opportunity by the scruff of its neck, the 27-year-old Italian fought tooth and nail to get himself into the day’s large 23-man break before keeping his cool on a series of four spiky climbs near the finish of the 231km stage when fellow escapee Remi Cavagna seemed to be riding away to glory.
Frenchman Cavagna blasted clear of his breakaway companions with 25km remaining on the second climb through the picture-perfect vineyards of the Oltrepo Pavese in southern Lombardy. Looking to provide his Deceuninck Quick-Step team their first win one day after Belgian tyro Remco Evenepoel was forced out of his debut Giro, Cavagna built up a lead of 30 seconds as Bettiol led the chase behind with Ireland’s Nico Roche (Team DSM).
But a huge acceleration on the penultimate climb saw Bettiol drop Roche and close in on the lone leader, with Cavagna finally hitting the wall in the final tortuous kilometre of the fourth climb. There was no looking back for Bettiol, who mastered the final descent before celebrating a maiden win on his home race with gusto in front of the ecstatic crowds in Stradella.
Read the full report here.

Re-Cycle: When Bartali beat Coppi in the 1946 post-War 'Giro of Rebirth'

The Giro di Lombardia might have run up until 1942 – and Milan-San Remo until one year later – but for five years during the Second World War, the Giro d’Italia was not contested. Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, but the devastating Italian Campaign was fought until 2nd May 1945, four days after the execution of the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini on the banks of Lake Como.
Italy was left ravaged by the war and the Paris Peace Treaties had yet to be signed when La Gazzetta dello Sport, the chief sponsors of the Giro d’Italia, pushed for a reinstation of the national race in 1946. While the Tour de France wouldn’t resume until a year later, the Vuelta a España had run its fifth edition in 1945 – following breaks brought about by the Spanish Civil War and World War Two. The Giro organisers now wanted to help boost the national regeneration by holding their race.
“The people of Naples and Turin, of Lombardy and Lazio, of Veneto and Emilia, all Italians, many regions as part of a single civilisation and of a single heart, are all waiting for the Giro, the mirror in which they can recognise themselves again and smile,” ran an editorial in the sports newspaper.
When the 29th edition of La Corsa Rosa did take place – just weeks after a national referendum replaced the monarchy with a republic – it pitted against each other two of the nation’s greatest cyclists: the Campionissimo who had won the last pre-war edition in 1940 and his old teammate and mentor, whose first Giro victory had come a whole decade earlier. An epic duel between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali was just what Italy needed – but as these two men resumed their rivalry, another less renowned rider would emerge to become the unexpected hero Italy was searching for in its time of need.
Read the full story by Felix Lowe here., listen above or download on your podcast platform of choice now.
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