Giro d'Italia stage 19: Chris Froome steals maglia rosa with 80km solo attack

Where to start? A complete implosion from the maglia rosa would ordinarily represent more than a fair share of final-week Alpine drama, but the woes of Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) seemed a distant memory by the end of stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia, which will go down as one of the most sensational days in Grand Tour history.

Chris Froome (Team Sky), astoundingly, won the stage with an 80-kilometre solo raid that took him over the Colle delle Finestre, Sestrière, and to the line on the Jafferau, gaining enough time to seize the lead of the Giro with just two days to go.

With a verdict still pending in his salbutamol case, today's result may not stand the test of time in the record books, but it will live long in the memory. Few Grand Tours have been turned on their heads quite like this.

Froome was dead and buried a week ago. Even after his victory on Monte Zoncolan and his solid stage 16 time trial, he started the day fourth overall, 3:22 down on Yates and 2:54 down on Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). He now leads the race by 40 seconds from Dumoulin, with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) third at 4:17, though the numbers don't begin to cover the half of it.

The mighty Colle delle Finestre was the centrepiece of the stage, the brutal 18.5km climb jutting out imposingly at mid-point of the profile, and that was where Froome's and Yates' fortunes took opposing turns. The Mitchelton-Scott rider, who had looked utterly untouchable for so much of this Giro, found himself in difficulty just a couple of kilometres in, proving that his minor wobble at Prato Nevoso the previous day was indeed a portent of decline rather than a mere moment of weakness. He would eventually cross the finish line in Bardonecchia nearly 40 minutes down on Froome.

Froome's Sky teammates set the tempo that sent Yates out of the back, and once Kenny Elissonde shredded the bunch with one final acceleration, the four-time Tour de France champion took flight several kilometres shy of the summit, shortly after the tarmac had turned to gravel.

Dumoulin and Pinot then found themselves in a three-hour pursuit, as Froome's acceleration dropped third-placed Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), who eventually finished more than eight minutes down. The duo had Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar) for company, and even if the white jersey rivals preferred to mark each other rather than contribute to the cause, a lifeline came in the form of Pinot's teammate Sebastien Reichenbach, who offered vital support in the valleys.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Froome's lead only grew and grew as he headed down the other side of the Finestre, through the valley and over the easier side of Sestrière, then through the next valley and up the short but steep final climb of the Jafferau.

Carapaz struck out in the final few hundred metres to take second on the stage, three minutes behind Froome, while Pinot took third on the stage at 3:07, five seconds ahead of Lopez. A ragged Dumoulin, having done the lion's share of the chasing, dragged himself over the line at 3:23. He might have suspected Yates was vulnerable to losing the pink jersey, but he surely couldn't have imagined it going to anyone else but himself.

"I don't think I've ever attacked with 80k's to go like that on my own and gone all the way to the finish but the team did such a fantastic job to set that up for me," said Froome before pulling on the maglia rosa. "It was going to take something really special today to try and first of all get rid of Simon and get away from Dumoulin and Pozzovivo. To go from fourth to first, I wasn't going to do that on the last climb alone, so I had to try from far out and Colle de Finestre was the perfect place... It just felt good and I said 'it's now or never, I have to try'."

More than eight minutes behind Froome, Pozzovivo, who'd started the day one place above the Briton, rolled across the line for 11th place, having spent the day in a second chase group that swelled after Sestrière. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Pello Bilbao (Astana), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), all in the top 15 overall at the start of the day, were in there, along with Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Sam Oomen (Sunweb).

One rider who perhaps deserved to be there was Ben O'Connor (Dimension Data), but the young Australian crashed on the descent of Sestrière as a top 10 on his debut Grand Tour was coming into focus. Other big-name losers of the day included Rohan Dennis (BMC), who was dropped on the Finestre and lost a heap of time, and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), who abandoned after an hour to put an end to a miserable Giro.

Froome leads the race by 40 seconds over Dumoulin – the only rider within four minutes – with Pinot third (4:17) ahead of Lopez (4:57), Carapaz (5:44), Pozzovivo (8:03), Bilbao (11:08), Konrad (12:19), Bennett (12:35), and Oomen (14:18). With one mountain stage and summit finish to come on Saturday ahead of the processional final day in Rome, Froome is in the driving seat to win a third consecutive Grand Tour, his sixth in total and his first at the Giro.

"It's great - obviously there's still a really hard day tomorrow, but the legs are feeling good and I've been feeling better and better as the race has gone on," he said. "Even today up front I gave it everything but I also tried to stay within my limits and tried to stay within myself. Hopefully, we can finish this off tomorrow."

How it unfolded

The breakaway had its day at Prato Nevoso on Thursday but it quickly became clear that wouldn't be happening again on stage 19. It was a fast, furious, and chaotic start as the road pitched uphill – even before the first of the day's four climbs, the second-category Colle de Lys. Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Carlos Betancur (Movistar) were active, but many more moves came and went before a nine-man breakaway stuck, if only briefly, in the valley. In there were Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R), Rodolfo Torres (Androni Giocattoli), Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy), Nathan Brown (EF-Drapac), Koen Bouwman and Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Darwin Atapuma and Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates).

Hitting the lower slopes of the Finestre, they had less than a minute, and that quickly evaporated as the Sky train, absent so far at this Giro, appeared at the head of the peloton. Salvatore Puccio was the first in the line - with De La Cruz, Henao, Elissonde, Poels, and Froome behind - and the Italian hadn't even finished his turn when Yates started to drift towards the back of the group. The maglia rosa quickly lost contact and the writing was on the wall as Mikel Nieve visibly had to soft-pedal in order to keep his team leader in tow.

The Sky train rolled on and a huge turn from De La Cruz even dropped Henao. By this point, the bunch had thinned out considerably, but the real fault lines emerged when Elissonde made his vicious acceleration, putting Pozzovivo in immediate trouble. Ellisonde's turn was short but paved the way for Froome, who managed to find another turn of pace. In the saddle, he spun away from Dumoulin, with Pinot and Carapaz the only others able to stay in touch, along with Lopez and Reichenbach yo-yo-ing off the back. It soon became clear this was no testing of the water; Froome really was going for it from 80km out.

At first, Froome's advantage was modest, with Dumoulin steadily keeping him at 15 seconds, but another injection of pace a couple of kilometres from the top took it out to 40 seconds. Just shy of the summit, Pinot broke a spoke, and Dumoulin thought it sensible to keep him for company, with Reichenbach not far from regaining contact either.

They, along with Lopez and Carapaz, crested the climb 38 seconds in arrears. Behind them was a group of six containing Pozzovivo, O'Connor, Bennett, Bilbao, Poels, and Oomen at 2:15. Yates was 15 minutes down by the time he'd dragged his hunched shoulders and empty legs over the top.

Froome opens up his gap

Before reaching Sestrière, the third climb of the day, Froome had to descend the Colle delle Finestre and take on a short hike through the valley. And that's where his lead really started to yawn out and where it became clear the pink jersey could come into play. The Sky rider completed the descent - made treacherous by wet patches, narrow roads, and tight corners - nearly a minute quicker than the five chasers.

He took a lead of 1:40 onto the flatter roads, where it became abundantly clear Carapaz and Lopez would not be offering up a single turn. It was left to Dumoulin and Reichenbach, and to a slightly lesser extent Pinot, to drag Froome back, but the lone leader only took the gap the other way. In the third group, Pozzovivo, Bennett, and O'Connor worked while Oomen, Bilbao, and Poels, all with teammates up the road, sat in. That group slowly started to lose ground to the Dumoulin group.

The climb was preceded by an intermediate sprint, and Froome gladly took three bonus seconds, while Dumoulin took two and Pinot one. Froome hit the climb with a lead of 1:52, and while the steadier gradients should have favoured a group, with the slipstream much more of a benefit than on the Finestre, he continued to put time into the chasers.

By the top, he was 2:45 ahead and almost in the virtual maglia rosa. The Pozzovivo group was now two minutes down on the Dumoulin group.

Maglia rosa hopes dim for Dumoulin

Froome once again descended quicker than his pursuers, taking the virtual lead as he came down from Sestrière. The problem, however, would come in the form of the valley roads ahead of the final climb, some 15km of them on the false flat of the A32 highway. Again, this should have been the sort of terrain that stacked the odds in favour of a group of riders over a lone leader, but still, Froome's lead grew. Even with three out of five willing chasers, the Dumoulin group looked ragged, and Froome, not exactly looking comfortable as he doused himself with water and took sustenance from soigneurs at every opportunity, took his lead above the three-minute mark.

The third group on the road was fading fast, with riders like Alexandre Geniez, Davide Formolo, and Sergio Henao getting back into it. But it was clear Pozzoivo was slipping dramatically down the standings, with the group now almost five minutes down on Dumoulin, and eight on Froome. O'Connor had come unstuck on one of the corners on the descent and soon had to abandon.

The Jafferau climb started with 7.2km remaining and represented a real sting in the tail, with an average gradient on the verge of double figures. It looked like Froome might fade as his lead dipped from 3:30 back down to 3:15 in the space of a kilometre or so. But he rallied again, despite big accelerations from everyone in that chase group.

Reichenbach offered up one final turn, and Dumoulin found himself distanced, with 6km still to cover. He dragged his way back but Pinot immediately attacked and danced on the pedals on his own for a while. Dumoulin's steady tempo, however, brought the four riders back together, though it was soon time for Lopez and Carapaz to launch their inevitable attacks, having sat in all day. Lopez went first, tracked by Carapaz, but Pinot responded and Dumoulin dragged his way back again. Dumoulin then came to the front in what was perhaps a statement of intent, but he was soon on the back foot again as Lopez kicked and the trio went away. Again, Dumoulin steadily drew his way back up, and the quartet decided to climb together until the final few hundred metres.

All the while, Froome was entering the final kilometre with a lead that still stood at 3:10. He rounded the final bend and punched the air as he crossed the line. He was in pink, and behind him, the Giro d'Italia in smithereens.

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky5:12:26
2Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team0:03:00
3Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:03:07
4Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team0:03:12
5Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb0:03:23
6Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ0:06:13
7Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe0:08:22
8Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb0:08:23
9Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 8 - Cell 2
10Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 9 - Cell 2
11Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:08:29
12George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo0:08:38
13Alexandre Geniez (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:09:45
14Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky0:11:09
15Wout Poels (Ned) Team SkyRow 14 - Cell 2
16Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy0:14:00
17Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo0:14:20
18Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team0:14:38
19José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin0:14:55
20Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:15:41
21Georg Preidler (Aut) Groupama-FDJ0:19:32
22Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Kilian Frankiny (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:23:07
24Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:24:43
25Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:24:49
26Darwin Atapuma (Col) UAE Team EmiratesRow 25 - Cell 2
27Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team EmiratesRow 26 - Cell 2
28François Bidard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 27 - Cell 2
29Eros Capecchi (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:25:32
30Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:26:00
31Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team Sunweb0:27:00
32Koen Bouwmam (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:27:22
33Davide Villella (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:32:52
34Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 33 - Cell 2
35Joe Dombrowski (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 34 - Cell 2
36Benjamin King (USA) Dimension DataRow 35 - Cell 2
37Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 36 - Cell 2
38Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana Pro TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:33:35
40Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec0:33:51
41Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates0:34:28
42Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar TeamRow 41 - Cell 2
43Victor De La Parte (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 42 - Cell 2
44Rodolfo Torres (Col) Androni Giocattoli-SidermecRow 43 - Cell 2
45Jérémy Roy (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 44 - Cell 2
46Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJRow 45 - Cell 2
47Steve Morabito (Swi) Groupama-FDJRow 46 - Cell 2
48Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-AlpecinRow 47 - Cell 2
49Manuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:35:05
50Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team SkyRow 49 - Cell 2
51Christian Knees (Ger) Team SkyRow 50 - Cell 2
52Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-HansgroheRow 51 - Cell 2
53Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Team SkyRow 52 - Cell 2
54Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:35:09
55Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step FloorsRow 54 - Cell 2
56Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Movistar TeamRow 55 - Cell 2
57Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain-MeridaRow 56 - Cell 2
58David De La Cruz (Spa) Team Sky0:35:16
59Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:35:18
60Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle ItaliaRow 59 - Cell 2
61Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-SidermecRow 60 - Cell 2
62Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-JumboRow 61 - Cell 2
63Niklas Eg (Den) Trek-SegafredoRow 62 - Cell 2
64Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 63 - Cell 2
65Davide Ballerini (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec0:35:24
66Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 65 - Cell 2
67Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida0:35:27
68Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo0:35:34
69Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:35:51
70Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Katusha-Alpecin0:36:09
71Nico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale0:37:22
72Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:37:34
73Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:37:39
74Ruben Plaza (Spa) Israel Cycling Academy0:37:44
75Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:37:52
76Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:37:57
77Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-Scott0:38:51
78Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-ScottRow 77 - Cell 2
79Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-ScottRow 78 - Cell 2
80Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 79 - Cell 2
81Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step FloorsRow 80 - Cell 2
82Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing TeamRow 81 - Cell 2
83Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-SidermecRow 82 - Cell 2
84Marco Frapporti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-SidermecRow 83 - Cell 2
85Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 84 - Cell 2
86Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team SunwebRow 85 - Cell 2
87Alex Dowsett (GBr) Katusha-AlpecinRow 86 - Cell 2
88Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott0:38:57
89Nathan Brown (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:39:10
90Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data0:39:24
91Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 90 - Cell 2
92Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team0:39:31
93Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo0:39:40
94Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates0:40:26
95Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:43:45
96Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Fix AllRow 95 - Cell 2
97Alex Turrin (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle ItaliaRow 96 - Cell 2
98Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-AlpecinRow 97 - Cell 2
99Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 98 - Cell 2
100Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 99 - Cell 2
101Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek-SegafredoRow 100 - Cell 2
102Roy Curvers (Ned) Team SunwebRow 101 - Cell 2
103Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 102 - Cell 2
104Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 103 - Cell 2
105Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-SegafredoRow 104 - Cell 2
106Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 105 - Cell 2
107Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Fix AllRow 106 - Cell 2
108Chad Haga (USA) Team SunwebRow 107 - Cell 2
109Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) LottoNL-JumboRow 108 - Cell 2
110Francisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing TeamRow 109 - Cell 2
111Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-SidermecRow 110 - Cell 2
112Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension DataRow 111 - Cell 2
113Jos van Emden (Ned) LottoNL-JumboRow 112 - Cell 2
114Lars Bak (Den) Lotto Fix AllRow 113 - Cell 2
115Natnael Berhane (Eri) Dimension DataRow 114 - Cell 2
116Eugert Zhupa (Alb) Wilier Triestina-Selle ItaliaRow 115 - Cell 2
117Dayer Quintana (Col) Movistar TeamRow 116 - Cell 2
118Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-ScottRow 117 - Cell 2
119Mitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b CannondaleRow 118 - Cell 2
120Lennard Hofstede (Ned) Team SunwebRow 119 - Cell 2
121Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-HansgroheRow 120 - Cell 2
122Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-AlpecinRow 121 - Cell 2
123Sam Bewley (NZl) Mitchelton-ScottRow 122 - Cell 2
124Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension DataRow 123 - Cell 2
125Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Quick-Step FloorsRow 124 - Cell 2
126Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step FloorsRow 125 - Cell 2
127Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 126 - Cell 2
128Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-SidermecRow 127 - Cell 2
129Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step FloorsRow 128 - Cell 2
130Michael Mørkøv (Den) Quick-Step FloorsRow 129 - Cell 2
131Svein Tuft (Can) Mitchelton-ScottRow 130 - Cell 2
132Enrico Barbin (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 131 - Cell 2
133Liam Bertazzo (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle ItaliaRow 132 - Cell 2
134Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-HansgroheRow 133 - Cell 2
135Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-MeridaRow 134 - Cell 2
136Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-HansgroheRow 135 - Cell 2
137Simone Andreetta (Ita) Bardiani CSFRow 136 - Cell 2
138Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:44:04
139Paolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani CSF0:44:07
140Antonio Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:44:26
141Manuele Boaro (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:44:30