On the start line: Giro d'Italia stage 19

Riders worried about snow on the Gavia on Saturday

The sun was shining at the start today's stage in Brescia but the atmosphere was tense as the riders gathered for the first of the two decisive mountain stages.

Today's 195km started in Brescia and ends in Aprica after the climbs of the Trivigno and the legendary Passo del Mortirolo.

A total of 148 riders started the stage. Not surprisingly, sprinters Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) - winner in Brescia yesterday, Julian Dean (Garmin-Transitions) and Danilo Hondo (Lampre-Farnese Vini) did not start.

The time for talking was almost over but riders like Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) were still grilled about what could happen. Can and he and Cadel Evans (BMC) gain enough time on David Arroyo for one of them to take the pink jersey? Will they go on to fight for the overall victory in Sunday's 15km time trial around Verona. Can Basso drop Evans? Or can the world champion pull back 42 seconds on Basso and set up overall victory?

Other riders like Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions) and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) were more worried about the weather forecast for Saturday's stage and wanted to know if the Giro will go over the Passo di Gavia.

The Gavia has now been opened to traffic but a final decision about if the race will go over the legendary climb will only be decided on Saturday morning. The road is clear after snow ploughs cut through the walls of snow but race organisers are worried about possible snow showers and freezing temperatures.

In 1988 race director Vincenzo Torriani did not think twice about sending the Giro peloton over the Gavia, knowing the stage would go down in history. Current race director Angelo Zomegnan loves to shake up the race and test the riders whenever he can just as much as Torriani, so we should not be surprised if he tries to create another legendary Giro stage over the Gavia.

Before then there is today's the climb of the Mortirolo and the twisting back road in the final kilometres to Aprica.

View Cyclingnews' start line photos here.

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