A tight ninety-degree bend caused chaos for the leading breakaway of five riders in a bizarre conclusion to Stage 19 at the Santuario di Castelmonte as Dutchman Koen Bouwman squeezed past Switzerland’s Mauro Schmid to take a second stage win on the Giro while Italy’s Andrea Vendrame and Hungary’s Attila Valter careered into the barriers behind.
Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) took an aggressive but ideal race line into the controversial corner, catching Schmid (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) by surprise as Vendrame (Ag2R-Citroen) and Valter (Groupama-FDJ) were forced wide. Vendrame and Valter were left to rue their luck as Bouwman went on to punch the air ahead of an embittered Schmid and third-place Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane).
“My opinion it was not a fair sprint – that’s pretty clear,” Schmid said in the immediate aftermath of the 178km stage through the Julian Alps of north-east Italy. “Because my handlebars were in front and he [Bouwman] nearly crashed in the last corner. He knew that he was slower in the sprint so he pushed me away and I could do nothing.”
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It was double delight for Bouwman who also crested the summit of all four of the day’s climbs to put the blue king of the mountains jersey beyond the reach of any of his rivals. Provided he completes the race, the 28-year-old will become the first Dutchman in Giro history to win the climbers’ classification in Verona on Sunday.
With an initial breakaway of 12 riders establishing a maximum lead of over 11 minutes as the race dipped into Slovenia for a trip up the tough Kolovrat mountain, there was little drama in the fight for pink despite some concerted pressure applied by Jai Hindley’s Bora-Hansgrohe team following the early withdrawal of Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers) through illness.
After his Bora team faded on the final climb, Australia’s Hindley was able to follow attacks from the pink jersey Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), with the top three riders of this year’s Giro crossing the line together almost four minutes behind the leaders.

Highlights: Bouwman seals Stage 19 win after chaotic finish, as you were in GC

Ecuador’s Carapaz, the 2019 champion, will take a slender three-second lead over Hindley, the 2020 runner-up, into the final mountain showdown in the Dolomites on Saturday, with Basque climber Landa in third place at 1:05.
Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) were among the early surprise attackers shortly after the start in Marano Lagunare before a breakaway of a dozen riders quickly formed on the flat opening section in the picturesque Fruili region of north-east Italy.
Andrea Vendrame (Ag2R-Citroen), Tobias Bayer (Alpecin-Fenix), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), Clement Dacy and Attila Valter (both Groupama-FDJ), Edoardo Affini and Koen Bouwman (both Jumbo-Visma), Davide Ballerini and Mauro Schmid (both Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) combined well on the front to open up a commanding lead over the Ineos-led peloton.
The dynamic of the race – at least, back in the peloton – changed on the first of four climbs, the Cat.3 Villanova Grotte, when Porte, a key mountain lieutenant of the pink jersey, was quickly distanced. Hindley’s Bora-Hansgrohe team flocked to the front to up the tempo and apply some pressure on Carapaz, with the Australian veteran soon abandoning his last ever Grand Tour with illness.

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Bouwman led the break over the summit of the climb and then doubled up over the Passo di Tanamea to give himself an unassailable lead in the KOM standings before the race dropped down into Slovenia ahead of the day’s major test: the Cat.1 Kolovrat climb dubbed ‘The Mortirolo of Slovenia’.
On the long descent and valley road ahead of the climb, Italians Ballerini and Affini, and the Frenchman Davy, all buried themselves on the front of the breakaway to give their respective teammates – Schmid, Bouwman and Valter – the best chance of the stage win.
And it was indeed these three riders who approached the summit of the double-digit climb on the head of the race, with Italy’s Tonelli just managing to claw his way back on before the top as Bouwman added yet more KOM points to his haul. Vendrame then appeared from nowhere on the descent, passing the leading quartet at speed to force a frenzied chase to the foot of the final climb.

‘That was a risk!’ - Vendrame nearly veers off as he launches attack

The leaders tackled the Cat.1 ascent to the Santuario di Castelmonte in a tense and cagey fashion, aware that one of them would take the win and therefore unwilling to throw it away. Although Vendrame was briefly dropped, the gradient was never steep enough to produce any significant gaps and the five riders almost came to a standstill as they passed under the kilometre-to-go banner and prepared for a track-style sprint.
But only Bouwman seemed to be aware of the tight corner, the Dutchman squeezing past Schmid and forcing the Swiss to lock up which, in turn, caused Vendrame and Valter to take evasive action through a gap in the barriers.
"I knew about the last corner but I didn't expect it to be that sharp,” Bouwman, who also won Stage 7 to Potenza, said. “I had to break but it's great that I was in the best position there. That gave me the win. I'm delighted."
Despite Schmid’s protestations the result stood and Jumbo-Visma’s Bouwman was able to celebrate a fine day in the office that also saw him become the first Dutchman to win the blue jersey.
“Second place is first loser so I’m not happy with that. I think I had it in the legs today so of course I’m disappointed,” said Schmid, before going on to graciously thank his Quick-Step teammate Ballerini for giving him the chance to contest the final win.
Behind, Bora-Hansgrohe were left to rue their earlier efforts when Hindley was quickly left isolated on the final climb following an acceleration from Carapaz’s teammate Pavel Sivakov. Carapaz put in an attack of his own which only Hindley and Landa were able to follow before the Spaniard’s subsequent dig momentarily saw the Bahrain Victorious rider open up a gap over his rivals.
Their battle will resume on Saturday’s Stage 20 which includes three tough peaks in the Dolomites including the Passo Pordoi – the highest of the race – and the double-digit gradient of the final ascent of the Passo Fedaia to Marmolada.
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