Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the penultimate stage of this year's Giro d'Italia.
Good morning and welcome to Silandro. The riders are now mustering the strength to roll towards the start line for today's stage. A modified, but nonetheless crucial final showdown in the mountains.
As things stand, the race will go ahead and cover the 210 kilometres between here and Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The climbs of the Passo Costalunga, Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Giau have been removed from the course, although the final climbs of the Tre Croci and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo remain. And the organisers have vowed that we'll still see a summit finish today.
After stage 19 was cancelled the race organisers were quick to act in confirming the stage 20 route. In terms of the battle for the GC, here's how things currently stand:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 73:55:58
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:04:02
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:04:12
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:05:14
5 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 0:06:09
6 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:06:45
7 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2R La Mondiale 0:06:47
8 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:07:30
9 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:08:36
10 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:09:34
After a dominant, crushing, performance in the mountain time trial Nibali has extended his lead in GC. Cadel Evans is clinging onto second place but Rigoberto Uran is breathing right down his neck and will surely fancy his chances of taking second with the bonus seconds also up for grabs.
Scarponi may also want to test the podium contenders as he's just over a minute down on Uran. The experienced Lampre leader knows what it take to crack a grand tour podium and will look to exploit any weakness or hesitation from the Colombian climber.
Despite the modifications this still has the makings of a highly tense and exciting mountain finale.
The riders have just rolled out for the start of the stage.
We've talked briefly about the battle for the GC but there's also the matter of a highly sought after stage win. Movistar (4), Omega (4), Sky (2), Katusha (2), Argos (1), Bardiani (1), Lotto (1), Garmin (1), Vini Fantini (1), Cannondale (1) have all won stages but there are plenty of teams that have come away with little in the race so far.
Blanco spring to mind, and with tomorrow certain to finish in a sprint, this is a last opportunity to go out with glory.
The news that overshadowed yesterday's stage cancellation was of course the positive EPO test for Danilo Di Luca. The rider was immediately fired by the Vini Fantini team and sent backing from the race.
Luca Scinto, his former boss, had a few choice words for the former Giro winner, saying, "He's mad, he's a cretino, he needs treatment. There's nothing else to say. We gave him a second chance and the sponsors put their faith in him and this is how he pays us back. It's crazy that a rider thinks they can get away with it like that."
We should add that there's the matter of the B sample to be analysed but the rider is suspended until further notice.
Di Luca returned a positive test from an out of competition control on April 29. He'd been a protagonist in the Giro, breaking away on a number of occasions and working for his former team leader in the mountains.
Cue isn't (I'll leave it up to you if you think it's necessary and deserved) vilification from riders on twitter. Even Lance Armstrong weighed in the topic to say: "Knowing I have 0 cred on the doping issue - I still can't help but think, "really Di Luca? Are you that fucking stupid??""
200km remaining from 210km
We're 10km down in the race, meanwhile, and the race is still compatto.
Robert Millar, who has written a blog for CN throughout this year's Giro d'Italia, has given us his thoughts on Di Luca. You can read them, right here.
And one more plug, we've updated our video channel with a load more content from the race, including a look at Nibali's TT bike, and his reaction to Di Luca. Here's the channel.
Another rider who hasn't lined up for today's stage is Blanco's Robert Gesink.
The Dutch climber pulled out of the action yesterday with illness. Once again it's a disappointing showing from Gesink, who can't seem to keep it together for three weeks of racing.
185km remaining from 210km
25km into the stage and it's still all together.
WEATHER UPDATE: At the stage start in Silandro, scattered cloud, 7 degrees Celsius. Over the race route, rain is forecast. At Misurina (km 204.2, 1757 m), possible snow and 1 degree Celsius. On the finish line at Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Cima Coppi, km 211, 2304 m), probable snow and 0 degrees Celsius.
Four riders have now broken clear:
Ermeti, Popovych, Hansen and Brutt.
175km remaining from 210km
The four leaders have a gap of 1'10 on the peloton. It looks like they're the break of the day.
Surprising that only four riders have made the move though. With so many teams still without a stage, and only two days remaining, more teams should have gone on the attack.
However the bunch seem content to let the group of four go clear and the gap is now out to over 6 minutes.
It's Euskaltel on the front of the peloton leading the chase. At 6 minutes it's going to be a big ask to try and bring the move back.
63km remaining from 210km
The four leaders are working well together, while at the finish there's snow falling.
Hansen drops back to his team car and picks up some bottles.
The peloton are strung out though, with a clearly visible Nibali near the front. Omega Pharma are on the front working for Cavendish, who will want to take some of the intermediate points.
In the points race Cavendish has a slim leader over Cadel Evans:
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 113 pts
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 109
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 103
The gap meanwhile has gone out to 8'16.
Euskaltel move back to the front of the peloton after Omega Pharma had taken up the reigns for a short time.
Hansen, in a skin suit, sets the pace on the front of the break, while back in the bunch Cadel Evans rides with two teammates either side of him.
Evans is in an interesting position. He may wish to attack Uran rather than ride defensively, and he's within touching distance of the maglia rossa too.
The new route for today's stage.
130km remaining from 210km
130 remaining, with the gap at 6'40.
Despite four Euskaltel riders setting the pace on the front of the peloton the gap continues to ride, it's now at 7'37.
The race for the white jersey could be the most intense of the day. Here's how the top two stand:
1 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
2 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2R La Mondiale 0:00:02
Sky lead the Teams' classification with Movistar in second. Strength in numbers will be crucial on the final climb, as Euskaltel continue to set the pace in the peloton.
Sanchez is 10th on GC but he's making his teammates do a lot of work in the first half of the race.
The gap has stabilized at around 7'30 with 111km to go.
107km remaining from 210km
nearly half-way through today's stage, and the gap dips under 7 minutes. There's certainly a lot of fire power in the four man move but it's a huge ask for them to stay clear today.
Brutt drops back and has a few words with Hansen who was busy with his rain jacket. The gap is down to 6'33 but the leaders are still tapping out a decent pace.
Meanwhile the snowfall has eased at the finish line.
It's a bit of a procession as we head towards the climbs. The pace is certainly high with the bunch still strung out as the gap is about to drop under 6 minutes. A reminder of the break: Giairo Ermeti (Androni Giocattoli), Yaroslav Popovych, (RadioShack Leopard), Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) and Pavel Brutt (Katusha).
A bit less sun now for the peloton with the cloud covering becoming a little bit thicker. Nibali is having a few words with an Euskaltel rider, who is essentially helping Astana do their job.
As Mark Cavendish drops to the back of the peloton with two of his teammates.
Nibali seemed to have asked Euskaltel why they were chasing. These seems to be some friction in the bunch, perhaps between the two Spanish teams. Paolini is sticking his neck in as well and asking what's going on.
The peloton have just hit the feedzone.
The peloton now race through Brunico with roughly 50 miles to go.
The pace has knocked off slightly after the feedzone and the break has 7 minutes once again.
@giroditalia Sat, 25th May 2013 13:41:53
64km remaining from 210km
The gap is down to 6'44 with 64 kmt to go. The peloton and the break are both climbing a slight gradient at the moment.
I cant believe it's taken so long but finally Savio pulls up alongside his rider and gives him a few instructions.
Euskaltel are still burning a number of matches on the front of the peloton, with Astana able to sit back and relax on the final mountain stage of this year's race.
Two Euskaltel riders have dropped back to the team car, perhaps to ask for further instructions. Knees is also back in the cars for Sky, handing back his rain jacket before returning to the back of the peloton.
Snow and fog at the finish now.
Cavendish moves to the front with one teammate and he wants the points at the intermediate sprint. Only two points left to fight for but they all count.
Cavendish was challenged by a Vini Fantini rider but the Brit takes the points. It doesn't look like Cavendish really appreciated the challenge.
48km remaining from 210km
The gap to the leaders is now down to 4'50.
Euskaltel have been joined by the Colombia and AG2R teams.
43km remaining from 210km
Snow banks are building up on both sides of the roads as the break starts to gently climb. The mountains are in the distance too, with the gap to the peloton at 4;25.
The rain is starting to fall on the peloton and there are a lot of rain jackets coming out. The peloton is starting to fragment, and it won't be long until the grupetto is formed.
Popovych is on the front for the break still, tapping out a decent tempo before slipping back and pulling on his gloves.
Cannodale now take up the pace setting, sending their entire contingent to the head of affairs, with news that Bole has had to abandon the race.
The gap to the leaders is now at 3'03.
Ermeti takes a few risks on the descent and pulls out a very short gap. That probably wont last too long though.
The four leaders have reformed as the rain continues to fall. There are just 23.8km to go with the gap at 2'36
Popovych has a short gap now with the rest of the break around 20 meters back.
There's a wet cobbled section coming up and the bunch are going to have to ease off when they hit that. Betancur is chasing at the back of the bunch having suffered a mechanical.
Cavendish leads the bunch as he takes the corner onto the cobbled section. He wants the final two points on offer from the intermediate sprint.
The Omega Pharma sprinter cleans up as Betancur is still chasing with 20km to go.
Popovych is clear, well clear now with Brutt chasing.
No Popovych has cracked and it's Brutt who is now clear of Adam Hansen.
And now Cadel Evans moves to the front of the bunch, with Nibali right on his wheel. The Cannondale pace as split the bunch and Betancur is in big trouble as he tries to chase back.
20km remaining from 210km
20km to go for Brutt.
Weening is now trying to break clear, with Brutt holding a gap of 2;13.
Race radio states that Betancur is a minute down on the maglia rosa group. That could be curtains for his white jersey chances.
The riders are on the penultimate climb with Weening holding 20 seconds over the Nibali group
Betancur has made it back to the leaders, just as Pirazzi jumps clear of the bunch.
So Brutt leads by 1 minute on Hansen, Weening at 1'43 and the maglia rosa group at 2'07.
Brutt just hunches over the bars and pushes out a huge gear. Weening on the other hand looks a lot fresher at the moment but it's the Katusha rider who leads the stage, as Euskaltel use Verdugo to set the pace for the maglia rosa group.
Atapuma has dropped Pirazzi and his riding through the initial break.
Verdugo pulls over as Weening catches Hansen as Saxo push the pace for Majka.
Betancur has changed bikes now and Saxo are looking to take advantage.
15km remaining from 210km
15km to go and Brutt has 1'04 on Weening. Everyone else on the attack has been caught though.
Pirazzi puts in another dig.
Brutt is really struggling though.
Astana start to the pace, Nibali followed by Evans and Caruso.
Brutt crests the top of the climb, with Weening at 26 second, and Pirazzi at less than 40.
Astana are next over the top at 48 seconds.
Brambilla has caught Pirazzi, dropped him and now leads Weening.
Capecchi has now attacked from the front of the peloton
Capecchi has caught Weening as Brambilla leads them up to Brutt.
Less than 8km to go, the final climb of this year's Giro.
They drop Brutt so it's Weening, Capecchi and Brambilla clear with the Movistar rider looking the strongest.
An attack from Atapuma coming from the maglia rosa group.
The three leaders have 58 seconds on the maglia rosa group with 7.5km remaining.
6km to go and Capecchi has left his breakaway companions.
Kiserlovski has attacked from the Nibali group.
Astana control the maglia rosa group, with no sign of Evans or Uran attacking.
Capecchi still leads as the pace in the maglia rosa group jumps up. As Weening is clear and in second.
3km remaining from 210km
The gradient ramps up to 12 per cent and Capecchi is starting to struggle with 3km to go .
And Nibali attacks.
He has one teammate with him as he blows the race to bits.
It looks like Lampre are leading the chase.
Weening looks like he's catching Capecchi.
Riders have come up to Nibali, Betancur and Majka both there but the race leader is setting the pace.
There's no sign of Uran, and Evans has blown and has been dropped by the Sky rider.
And Nibali sweeps up Weening and attacks again.
Capecchi is about to caught by Nibali.
Uran is with Betancur but it's Nibali who is now leading the race and clear.
Scarponi is down with a further group, no sign of Evans though as Uran and Betancur chase Nibali.
There's Evans, he's out of the saddle and trying to crawl his way back to Uran.
Nibali is soloing clear to anther stage win.
Evans continues to pass riders on the road and he's getting back to Uran and Betancur.
Scarponi is back with Weening
1.6km to go for Nibali.
Uran lifts the pace and Evans slips back a few more meters.
Evans can't beat the gradient and second place is slipping away from the Australian.
Betancur and Uran both with something to gain, Uran can take second on GC and Betancur white as Duarte makes it three chasers.
Nibali rises out of the saddle with 1km to go.
Evans has blown and he's being passed by rider after rider, Scaponi and Caruso both ride by.
Scarponi if he can put time into Evans he might even sneak into third. He's dropping the Australian.
The snow is falling, the conditions are awful but Nibali is proving that he's the best rider in the race with back to back stage win. He lifts himself out of the saddle once again and surges for the line with 400 metres to go.
Nibali crosses the line and wins stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia.
It looked like Duarte in second and Uran in third.
Betancur will take the white jersey as Evans now comes over the line. The BMC rider should be safe in third.
No sign of Sanchez though after all that work from his Euskaltel team.
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 5:27:41
2 Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia 0:00:17
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:19
4 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:21
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:44
6 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:00:48
7 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:54
8 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:58
9 Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (Col) Colombia 0:01:00
10 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:04
So here's the overall:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 79:23:19
2 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:04:43
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:05:52
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:06:48
5 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:07:28
6 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 0:07:43
7 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:08:09
8 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:10:26
9 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:10:32
10 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:10:59
A good day for Uran and Betancur (what could he have done without those mechanicals?) but there's no doubt that Nibali has been the strongest rider in this year's race.
You can find our race report, images, and results, right here.
Thanks for joining us today, and tune in tomorrow for live coverage from the final stage of this year's race.
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