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Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz tightened his grip on the leader’s pink jersey as Colombia’s Esteban Chaves claimed victory in the 19th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Friday.
Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), edged clear of a breakaway that battled up a gruelling final 13.6km climb with a 5.6% gradient.
Chaves, who finished second in the Giro and third in the Vuelta in 2016, found himself riding solo with just under 3km to race to the line. Italy’s Andrea Vendrame twice overcame chain problems to finish second with Portugal’s Amaro Antunes rounding out the podium.
Chaves’ compatriot Miguel Angel Lopez, chasing second spot in the general classification, was the big winner of the day as he finished more than 40sec ahead of his main rivals.
Chaves said, “It’s unbelievable, I don’t have words for this. It’s a lot of work that we have put together, my family, my team, my friends, everyone knows how hard we worked. I never gave up and the climb of the day showed that, I attacked many, many times until I could drop everyone.
“It was just happiness, it was like I took a really heavy weight off my back and it’s the result from all the hard work in the last two or three years.
“This shows me I can do it, this shows me that I’m not over and it shows me that I can do this for a long, long time.
“In the last climb, because it’s not super steep I had to attack many, many times and this last climb is like life; you need to keep trying, keep going, keep fighting, keep attacking because you never know when you drop everyone and arrive at the finish line with the victory.”
Mitchelton-Scott sports director Matt White said, “It’s been a long time coming. We came here trying to win the general classification, but things change, we adapted our plan and we weren’t leaving the Giro d’Italia without a minimum of a stage win.
“With four second-places, we’ve been close, but that’s a special win on a couple of fronts; obviously for Esteban after a big year coming back from his illness, but also for the team and the faith and patience that we’ve had with his comeback. It’s been a long time, 12 months. He isn’t in the best shape of his life, but he was good enough to win today.
“We had to have Lucas (Hamilton), Esteban or Mikel (Nieve) in the breakaway. If they weren’t in it, we would have controlled the race until it happened.
“Because the break went so quickly, there wasn’t another world-class climber in there. Usually, the harder the race gets, the harder it is to get in the breakaway, but it went early and that worked in our favour.
“The big fear for us before the climb started was that Esteban could be isolated with a long range attack, but when we got on the last climb, we were fairly confident. He was the best climber in the breakaway, that doesn’t guarantee you anything but it’s a nice place to start.
“Our race hasn’t finished, tomorrow is a day that will define the Giro.”
Leader Carapaz resisted a late surge by third-placed Primoz Roglic, holding on to cross the mountain-top finish line in a peloton alongside the Slovenian, Italian Vincenzo Nibali and Spain’s Mikel Landa, the latter two staying in second and fourth positions overall respectively.
On Saturday’s penultimate stage, the riders tackle a punishing 193km ride from Feltre to Croce d’Aune Monte Avena in the Dolomites that features five long climbs including 11km at 5.5% up Croce d’Aune and 6.9km at 7.3% up Monte Avena. The Giro ends with a 15.6km time trial in Verona on Sunday.
Stage 19 results
1 Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott 4:01:31
2 Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec 0:00:10
3 Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC 0:00:12
4 Giovanni Carboni (Ita) Bardiani CSF 0:00:24
5 Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:32
6 François Bidard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:35
7 Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane 0:01:02
8 Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana 0:01:37
9 Manuel Senni (Ita) Bardiani CSF 0:01:53
10 Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:02:33
General Classification after stage 19
1 Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar 83:52:22
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:01:54
3 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma 0:02:16
4 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:03
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:05:07
6 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana 0:05:33
7 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:06:48
8 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:07:17
9 Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Ineos 0:08:27
10 Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:10:06