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Giro d'Italia 2015: Stage 19


Hello and welcome to live coverage from stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia. We're in Gravellona Toce and about to head back into the high mountains.

Two huge days in the mountains to come and you just know that the race isn't a done deal. After nearly three weeks of twists and turns will the Giro d'Italia provide one last spectacle?

The riders have just started through the neutralized zone, ahead of them 236km of racing, four climb, the last three of which could blow the race apart. And it's another summit finish to Cervinia where Pavel Tonkov famously cracked in 1997 and lost the race to Ivan Gotti.

Cervinia has played host to more recent battles too. It's where Amador won a stage in 2012 and of course where Ryder Hesjedal first took the maglia rosa from Joaquim Rodriguez.

After yesterday's action here's where we stand on GC coming into today's stage 19:

Contador has extended his lead to over five minutes on Landa and is well on course for his second Giro d'italia. Yesterday he was once again in scintillating form, dropping an entire peloton with over 40km to go and putting over a minute into all of his principle rivals.

To show you how brutal today's stage is we have a video from InCycle in which Eros Poli drags himself up the climbs. You can watch the video, right here.

This morning we have a few clouds in the sky but the peloton are rolling through the neutralized zone in relatively good spirits given how hard this Giro has been. The first climb, the 3rd cat of the Croce Serra doesn't come until 85km into the day's action so there's a while before the climbers can shine.

Around 8km into the stage  and there are no attacks from the peloton. It's all together with Tinkoff Saxo on the front for race leader Alberto Contador. The Spaniard might have a healthy lead over his rivals but this race is far from over and the Russian team will need to be at their best throughout what is going to be a very demanding stage of racing.

After the first third cat climb of the day we head to the more serious tests, the ascents of Saint-Barthélemy, the Col Saint-Pantaléon and the final climb to Cervinia.

It's a three horse race at the moment in the KOM. Landa is a little further back in third and he may not go for the points today on the first three climbs but it's certainly tight at the top:

There are 112 points to be won today in the KOM competition and we might even see Betancur go on the attack as well. He's been quiet for the last few days but he may have one long break still left in his legs.

217km remaining from 236km

Aside from yesterday's racing exploits we also saw the mechanical doping story appear once more when the UCI checked a number of bikes at the finish. They included Contador, Gilbert and Hesjedal's bike. You can read that story, right here.

Today there's a total elevation gain of nearly 4,800m, mostly in the last 100km, where the peloton negotiates three consecutive climbs, up to 20km in length. The long approach through the foothills passes Borgomanero and Biella, then the Val d'Aosta for the final 150km. The long climbs are the Col de St. Barthélemy (20km at 5.6%), the Col de St. Pantaléon (16.5km at 7.2%) and, finally, the Cervinia (19km at 5%).

Just a shade over 200km to go and the peloton are still all together.

Just as we saw there's no break around ten riders jump from the pack and open out a ten second lead. They include Visconti and Chaves.

The riders in the move, which now has 25 seconds over the peloton are Betancur, Montaguti, Rutkiewicz, Ulissi, Visconti, Chaves, Kosjetkov, Van der Lijke and Kirijenka.

That's a strong looking break and the intent is clearly there from AG2r who have two men in the move as they look to fight for a stage and move Betancur into a stronger position in the KOM race:

Van der Lijke has a key role in the break though. He'll be in there to mark Betancur's every move and try and snatch as many KOM points from the Columbian as possible in order to protect Kruijswijk's lead.

190km remaining from 236km

But that lead pushes out to over a minute now. Kruijswijk will be the most nervous rider in the bunch because there are some riders who can really cut his lead in the KOM competition up the road.

The gap isn't really extending to be honest and that's not a good sign for the break at this stage as the peloton aren't too keen to let them disappear up the road.

Over 50km covered in the first hour of racing alone and that's partly why the break are struggling to stamp their authority on today's proceedings. They're at least creating a foothold though, and now have pushed the lead to just over two minutes.

It's actually Androni on the front leading the chase. Savio will have expected his men to have put a rider in the break but they've failed and are thus being put to work.

175km remaining from 236km

The leaders put another 18 seconds into their advantage but it's a lot of graft for little reward at this point in the race. The peloton are at 3'18.

We're about 20km out from the first climb of the day - a short 3rd cat climb that shouldn't cause panic or pressure within the bunch. After nearly three weeks of racing there are a lot of tired legs out there.

We're nearly at the lower slopes of the Croce Serra with the gap still holding at just under 3'20.

158km remaining from 236km

At the finish we have blue skies and little wind by the way but the peloton still have around four hours of action until they reach us.

Before we hit the first climb of the day here's a brief reminder of where we stand on GC coming into the stage:

Astana took yesterday's defeat on the chin  but they've hinted that their chances of winning the race have gone. You can read their thoughts, here.

And away from the Giro, we've a few shots of Wiggins training on his Hour Record bike in London. Story and images, just here.

Back to the here and now and the leading group are now on the first climb of the day.

And back to yesterday you can watch the race highlights right here. Along with Contador's show of force we were also treated to a stinging attack from Gilbert, who has now won two stages in this year's race.

Race radio hasn't confirmed who was top as they crested the climb but at least the leaders have pushed the gap out to over four minutes. It's at 4'08 with 144km to go.

We've not seen this for a couple of days but Astana have moved up and are now setting the pace at the front of the peloton. The gap to the break still around four minutes.

Betancur is first on the top of the climb so his intent is to pick up as many KOM points as possible. That's really quite pragmatic given than the peloton are not giving the break much room at all.

Race radio crackles through that Enrico Battaglin, who was nearly three hours down in GC, has called an end to his Giro d'Italia. Down to 164 riders in the race.

127km remaining from 236km

The break press on and they've taken another 20 seconds out of the peloton. The lead up to 4'40.

There's a short uphill ramp before the leaders hit the lower slopes of the Saint-Barthélemy, the first major climb in today's stage. The 16km climb will see a number of groups split from the main field as the pace has been relentless once again today.

108km remaining from 236km

No real sign of Uran near the front of the bunch today. The Etixx rider is rumoured to be on his way out of the team this year with his contract winding down. He's currently 30 minutes down on GC.

We're about 10km from the foot of the Saint-Barthélemy.

There's been another increase in pace at the front of the bunch as they line out and prepare for the first major climb. It's all about positioning as we saw with Contador and Landa yesterday and neither team is willing to yield any ground.

We're into the final 90km of racing already. There's been absolutely no let up from the bunch at all.

A reminder of those we have up the road:

The leaders are now on the lower slopes of this 16.5km climb and instantly they line out and try to find their best rhythm.

And Astana continue to line the peloton out. They'll be looking to isolate Contador and take out the stage win. Hence why they've been chasing for so long. The gap creeps just under four minutes.

Problems for Betancur who has lost ground on the leading group. We're not sure if that's due to a mechanical or poor legs.

Meanwhile Astana are providing Contador with a free ride into the lower slopes of the climb. He's still behind his team with Aru and Landa using their squad to set the pace.

And the break start to split with Chaves and Visconti both clear of the rest of the break. Betancur is in the second group on the road.

The bunch are at the foot of the climb now too and they're 3'23 down on the two leaders.

And now it's just Visconti on his own because Chaves has been distanced. The Orica GreenEdge rider is back in a group of three containing Pavel Kochetkov (Team Katusha) and Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky). Visconti leads by 8 seconds.

79km remaining from 236km

We're about half-way up the climb and Visconti has been brought back to we've four leaders on the road. The Italian, Chaves, Kochetkov (Team Katusha) and  Kiryienka (Team Sky).

Rutkiewicz is chasing the four leaders on his own, around 19 seconds down on then. As for Betancur he's finished for the day. He's nearly four minutes down on the leading foursome.

Just six men from the early break remain and they're split into three groups on the first climb. The peloton are riding tempo and are 3'43 down on the first group of riders on the road.

Betancur is one of the riders who is now back with the peloton. The four leaders, meanwhile are closing in on the summit of the first climb. Lets see if Visconti can take top points and open up a challenge for the KOM jersey.

Contador in pink is just bobbing around in his own style of riding, right at the back of the Tinkoff Saxo train.

Visconti is top at the climb and picks up the points.

The peloton though have taken a minute off the break's lead, the gap down to 2'44 with 68km to go.

Attacks from the bunch on the Saint-Barthélemy with Kruijswijk responding immediately to Intxausti as they fight it out for the minor points at the top of the climb.

Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) joins the leaders so we now have five men in the break. 66km to go.

The peloton are on the descent now and Astana still on the front. Up ahead we have the five leaders while Nick van der Lijke (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) has waited and linked up with Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo and Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar Team

55km to go and Astana lead the peloton on the first major descent of the day. The KOM contenders are just 24 seconds ahead.

The remaining two climbs are going to split the race to pieces not just due to the terrain but also because of the pace. Astana have been on the front for well over an hour and there's been no let up.

50km remaining from 236km

Contador still has the majority of his team alongside him as we see Visconti drift to the back of the break.

The leaders are racing towards the Col Saint-Panthaleon. The first 2km are narrow and there are sections around 11-12 percent. The GC riders are going to have be near the front in order to stay out of trouble.

The five leaders are plugging away  as they hit the lower sections of the climb. Team cars come up and provide a few extra bottles for the climb ahead.

And we're happy to welcome Bobby Julich into the CN commentary blimp as Visconti once again accelerates away from the break.

The gap between Visconti and the maglia rosa group is at 2'21 with 42km to go. The Italian is out of the saddle on the tougher sections of the climb as Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) and Pavel Kochetkov (Team Katusha) go clear and start to chase.

The Movistar rider has pulled out another ten seconds on the peloton and he should take the points at the top of the climb.

Aru and Landa both keep looking around trying to get a glimpse of Contador. The race leader has lost a couple of men already but he still has support around him.

Bobby J: I'm pretty interested to see what Astana has in mind for today’s stage. Setting tempo for this long and keeping the breakaway so close tells me that they may just want to set the pace that they are comfortable with and protect their GC placings. I don’t think that anyone is complaining at the moment, but this Giro has been full of surprises!

Pavel Kochetkov (Team Katusha) has opened up a gap on Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) with 40km to go.

Contador just looks cool and collected. He's down to just three teammates though.

Bobby Julich: These guys have been racing flat stick up every one of these climbs in the Giro so far that I am sure that everyone is happy with just a nice and steady pace for once!

Julich: I would think that Alberto is thinking first and foremost about the overall, but what leader in a GT wouldn’t like to win a mountain stage in the final week?

Visconti isn't holding anything back as Cataldo sets the pace for Aru and Landa. Amador, Contador, Trofimov are all in this maglia rosa group.

It looks like Contador only has Kreuziger and Rogers for support.

The entire peloton has lined out under the pressure from Cataldo's pace setting.

Meanwhile Visconti  has 47 seconds on Pavel Kochetkov (Team Katusha).

And Uran is already at the back of the maglia rosa group as Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) is caught. That leaves just Visconti and Pavel Kochetkov (Team Katusha). Astana have six men on the front of the peloton.

Bobby Julich: So looks like everything is going to come down to the final climb today. Great to see these guys getting treated to such good weather on these stages. I have been paying attention to the Tour de Fjords and lets just say that the conditions are not quite the same.

It's Basso that's still with Contador as Astana continue to set the pace. The other Tinkoff rider with the race leader is Rogers.

Julich: I think that the last step on the podium is going to be where the real battle will take place. Aru has shown weakness, but he is an Italian climber in the last week of the Giro and sure that he will not give that spot up easily. Amador, Trofimov, and Konig will have to do something special on the last climb or during tomorrows stage.

Visconti still has 2'21 on the maglia rosa group with 33km to go. They're all riding into headwind which is going to make it difficult for the Movistar man.

Julich: Looks windy out there at the moment. Will be interesting to see the direction on the final climb. A headwind would make it a lot more difficult to make a difference.

Onto a 12 per cent ramp for the lone leader but he just keeps his head down and pushes on.

Rogers dropped back to the team car but he's working his way back to Contador and Basso.

Julich: Pretty impressive to see guys dropping back for bottles/food and then able to make it back to the front!

Cataldo has eased up and it's Zeits who sets the pace, while Visconit has 3km to go until he hits the summit of this climb.

Julich: Outside of the top three riders, I have been quite impressed by Kruijswijk for this climbing in the final week, Hesjedal for this hard man work ethic, and then the BMC duo of Gilbert and Moinard. Gilbert was brilliant in both stages that he won, but especially yesterday! He paced the climb perfectly and then came back and instantly attacked at the right moment. He was flying down that descent and 12km out you could see that no one was going to beat him. Moinard has been impressive the entire race. Always a solid teammate, but to ride to ride like this as a last minute call up to the team is truly impressive. Has been a great Giro, full of excitement and drama.

Visconti has hit the harder sections of the climb and the pace has eased slightly in the maglia rosa group but only slightly.

Julich: With so many people in the group 30km to go in a stage like this must have more than the “usual suspects” thinking about the possibility of a GT, third week, big mountain, stage win. Should be an exciting final!

Visconti is about to crest the top of the climb,Pavel Kochetkov (Team Katusha) meanwhile only has a minute on the main field.

At the back of the peloton Moinard and Felline are just about hanging on, the pace lifting once more.

The maximum points for the Movistar man as Kruijswijk attacks and Intxausti gives chase.

Intxausti drops the Lotto rider and he'll take third and the provisional lead in the KOM competition.

Julich: On top of everything that the riders will have to deal with on this last climb is the altitude. There is almost 8km of +1600m and that is going to give the riders some strange sensations to deal with on top of the normal fatigue factor.

Bobby you know from experience. You wore the KOM jersey at the Vuelta during your Motorola days didn't you?

We're on the descent and heading towards the final climb of the day. Because of the points gained Visconti now leads the KOM by 126 points with his teammate in second.

There's no let up at all from Astana who set the pace with Luis Leon Sanchez leading the peloton.

Julich: have to say that every time I see someone do that “super tuck” position I get a bit nervous. Was actually tempted to try it out during my little early morning spin this morning, but wimped out. When I think about it, there was more crazy positions back in my day. Does anyone remember guys hanging off the back of the saddle? That was supposed to be the most aero position and many of us bought into it, but the risk of disaster was probably worse than the “super tuck”.

Visconti takes a bidon just inside the last 20km of racing. He leads Pavel Kochetkov (Team Katusha) and the peloton at 1'57.

Julich: Glad to see that everyone got down that descent safe and sound! A race a great as this deserves to be decided on the road, not due to a crash or technical issue.

And Pavel Kochetkov (Team Katusha) is just a few moments away from being caught by the bunch.

It's stage winner Paolo Tiralongo who is on the front of the bunch now with Aru and Landa nicely tucked in.

16km remaining from 236km

The gap to Visconti is starting to come down and he loses 20 seconds on the early slopes of the climb.

Julich: I am really bad at calling races, but I have a feeling that Hesjedal is teeing up for a good go on this final climb once it gets hard. He deserves a big result after what he did yesterday.

Inside the final 13km and the wheels are falling off for Visconti - his lead down to one minute.

It's all Tiralongo on the front at the moment. Uran has recovered and is still in the mix.

The maglia rosa group is down  to less than 30 riders and Basso is still there with Contador.

The gap is down to just 41 seconds as the road levels out for a moment. It will kick up again as we close in on the top of the climb.

Still Tiralongo on the front with LL Sanchez just behind him, followed by Aru and Landa.

11km to go and the gap for Visconti is 15 seconds. It's almost all over but he could take the KOM jersey at the end of the day.

The catch is made and Tiralongo continues his effort.

Julich: Two riders that I forgot to mention that have impressed me in this Giro is Konig and Fellini. Konig came in as a support rider for Richie and lost those 2’ due to the crash. He has been solid since Richie stopped. Fabio Felline really impressed me with his long 60km TT result and now to see him up here in a big mountain stage! This kid has a big future!

Three from Team Sky in the magalia rosa group with 10km to go. They include Konig.

Siutsou has attacked but he's closed out and now the favourites make a move.

Contador Landa, Hesjedal go clear and Aru is trying to come across. He makes it and so does Uran and Kruijswijk

Sky kicked it off and now they're trying to shut it all down as Hesjedal sets the pace.

Amador is being paced back to the leaders by his teammates. Caruso in the second group.

And Aru attacks and Uran goes backwards.

Now we have five men: Aru, Landa, Contador, Hesjedal and Kruijswijk. 8.7km to go.

Hesjedal doesn't want to slow and he pushes on. He has a gap.

Julich: Aru has to be encouraged to see Amador suffering, but has to be careful and make sure he is as good as he looks right now.

More attacks and this time it's Landa, Contador Kruijswijk and Aru... just as Konig was coming back.

Landa is setting the pace. Is he riding to help Aru finish third?

Hesjedal is just four seconds clear with 7.8km to go.

And the pace slows so the Cannondale rider can open the gap but here goes Aru again.

He has a gap. Contador lets him go.

Aru is chasing down Hesjedal and he should get there quickly.

Konig has come back and Contador is just concentrating on Landa as Kruijswijk now attacks.

Hesjedal has around 5 seconds on Aru and 15 on Contador and Landa. 7km to go.

Uran, Konig and a few others come back to the Contador/Landa group.

Julich: Good call by Alberto not to follow that move my Aru. Still a long way to go and this could easily be a boomerang attack. Alberto must be happy now that he has 6’ on him at this moment.

And Aru makes it up to Hesjedal with 6.2km to go.

And Aru attacks with a huge kick but Hesjedal has just enough to hold him.

But not for long and now Aru is clear.

Contador is just content to sit and watch Landa.

Konig, Kruijswijk, Contador and Landa all together as Aru opens up a 28 second lead.

That gap is going up as Kruijswijk sets the pace. 34 seconds now.

Will Landa accept this because Aru is closing in on second place?

5km remaining from 236km

We've not seen Trofimov for a while and no time gap for him.

Aru has lost a few seconds but he still has 37 seconds on the maglia rosa group.

Julich: Aru is showing the form that has escaped him the last few mountain stages. He will get big “grinta” points on this one! The speed that he is going compared to the others at the moment is impressive.

Contador still at the back of the group and just content to follow Landa. Aru now has 44 seconds.

Uran is trying to come over to the Contador group.

Just under 4km to go for Aru, who has around 15 seconds on Hesjedal. Uran is now with the Contador/Landa group. Konig sets the pace as he wants to put time into Trofimov and Amador.

Aru nearly has a minute and now Uran attacks.

Aru is almost second on GC on the road.

Uran will struggle to catch the lone leader but he's at least showing some form.

Kangert is with the maglia rosa group now too

Aru up 1'16 and riding into second place.

Contador can't be too defensive at this stage. He may need to respond.

Julich: Still a few kms to go on this climb but it gets less steep on the top. Aru has made the difference where he needed to. Looks like a two horse race between he and Hesjedal. Who has that bit extra once the gradient goes down?

Aru has 24 seconds on Hesjedal and he looks set for the stage and possibly second overall.

Still no response from Contador who just track Landa with 2km to go. Will either Spaniard attack?

Uran has 12 seconds on the Contador group.

Julich: With the stage tomorrow in mind, I understand that Alberto can play his cards close to his chest now, but things just got a lot more interesting in the GC picture.

Aru has 1'16 on the Contador group with 1'4km to go.

Team Sky are doing all the work for the Contador group.

Just 1km to go for Aru and the stage is going to be his.

Hesjedal is set for second on the stage.

A real comeback from Aru here today. The white jersey wins stage 19 of the race and should move into second overall.

Hesjedal does indeed come over the line in second place 28 seconds down.

Uran is third, another comeback rider at 1'08.

And here come the other GC riders around 1'20 down. Amador still not over the line. Nor Caruso.

Julich; Nice to see Uran finally show his face on the front. A bit of compensation for an average Giro for him.

1 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step
4 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team
5 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
7 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky
9 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky
10 Alexandre Geniez (Fra)

Julich: I think that Alberto had a plan and played it very cool. You have to remember that there is another hard finish tomorrow and you have to measure your efforts intelligently. Going to be a great end to a great Giro and surely there is more excitement to come.

General classification after stage 19

1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 78:48:40
2 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:04:37
3 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:05:15
4 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team 0:08:10
5 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky 0:10:47
6 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:11:11
7 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:12:05
8 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:12:14
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:12:53
10 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) 0:15:07

Bobby, what do you make of the dynamic now between Landa and Aru?

So Aru moves into second on GC and Contador holds. There's still one major day in the mountains and you can join us tomorrow for complete action from stage 20. For now, here's our report, images and results from today's action.

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