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On the start line: Giro d'Italia stage 19

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The Kuota bikes await the Ag2r-La Mondiale riders

The Kuota bikes await the Ag2r-La Mondiale riders
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) talk to the race announcer Barbara Pedrotti

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) talk to the race announcer Barbara Pedrotti
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions) is looking forward to the final mountain stages

Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions) is looking forward to the final mountain stages
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Will Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) go on the attack?

Will Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) go on the attack?
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Steve Cummings (Team Sky) signs on

Steve Cummings (Team Sky) signs on
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Will David Arroyo still be in pink in Aprica?

Will David Arroyo still be in pink in Aprica?
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) wears the red points jersey instead of the rainbow jersey

Cadel Evans (BMC) wears the red points jersey instead of the rainbow jersey
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The peloton gathers for the start in Brescia

The peloton gathers for the start in Brescia
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Gilbert Simoni (Lampre-Farnese Vini)

Gilbert Simoni (Lampre-Farnese Vini)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The media grilled Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) about what will happen in the final two mountain stages

The media grilled Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) about what will happen in the final two mountain stages
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Liquigas-Doimo team is riding Cannondale bikes

The Liquigas-Doimo team is riding Cannondale bikes
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alexandre Vinokourov has a special Specialized

Alexandre Vinokourov has a special Specialized
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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This is Alexandre Vinokourov's bike

This is Alexandre Vinokourov's bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Filippo Pozzato is questioned on the sign-on podium

Filippo Pozzato is questioned on the sign-on podium
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Charly Wegelius (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is ready to help Matt LLoyd defend his climber's jersey

Charly Wegelius (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is ready to help Matt LLoyd defend his climber's jersey
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Matt Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) gets a cheque and a cheer every morning at the start

Matt Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) gets a cheque and a cheer every morning at the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Matt Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) also gets a lot of requests for autographs

Matt Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) also gets a lot of requests for autographs
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The media grilled Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) about what will happen in the final two mountain stages

The media grilled Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) about what will happen in the final two mountain stages
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The umbrella girls await the riders on the start line

The umbrella girls await the riders on the start line
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

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.