Simon Yates takes back half a minute as well as stage victory
One thing is for sure, Simon Yates will not give up until the final kilometre of this Giro d'Italia has been ridden.
The BikeExchange rider took off with 6.5km to go on stage 19, a third of the way up the final Alpe di Mera climb, yet could only take out a maximum of half a minute as he forged on ahead.
By the finish line, which he crossed first, his gap combined with accrued bonus seconds meant he'd clawed back 33 seconds on Bernal.
In his post-race interview, Yates said he'd seen on Twitter that Bernal and Ineos would ride stage 19 more conservatively, so when he saw João Almeida move off the front of the GC group, he knew it was now or never.
The Brit was soon alone at the front of the race, trying his best to upturn the GC, but says the stage wasn't difficult enough to make up more time than he managed. Tomorrow, however, could prove to be a different story.
2-49 is now the gap between Yates and Bernal, and although that could prove insurmountable he should at least manage the 20-second deficit to Bahrain-Victorious' Damiano Caruso.
With nearly three minutes to make up, and a three-minute buffer over fourth-place Alexandr Vlasov (Astana), will we see Yates blow the race up early? Let's hope so.
Can Egan Bernal hang on?
On TV commentary Bradley Wiggins predicted Bernal's downfall, saying his back was playing up again and the race was very much on.
Maybe that was just a cynical ploy to make us sit through even more cremation adverts (seriously, Eurosport, really not the time to remind us of our brief period on this mortal coil) but regardless Bernal battled hard and hung on.
After Dani Martínez fell away (more on that Colombian later) Bernal fought against the gradient to try and claw Yates back, limiting his losses to cross in third place, only shipping half a minute to the Brit.
A similarly gritty performance tomorrow should see Bernal safely through the Milan time trial to secure the maglia rosa, and with performances like today's, he'll make a deserving champion.
João Almeida upgrades his shop window status
A lot of the talk this Giro d'Italia surrounding João Almeida has been split between his expected move away from the team at the end of the year as well as the talented Portuguese having to play second fiddle to Remco Evenepoel.
But with the Belgian sadly departing the race, Almeida has been left to shine. A couple of second-places on the past two mountain stages may not be what the Deceuninck - Quick-Step rider deserves from these three weeks, but he's managed to upgrade his shop window status and will likely be able to help his super-agent Jorge Mendes buy an even bigger boat next summer - or whatever it is that super-agents spend their money on.
His stint in pink at last year's Giro was remarkable, but this year he's improved on his sturdy John Lewis-ness, good in a time trial and competent uphill, into something that wouldn't look remiss in Selfridges - true star quality. Other department stores are available, as are young talents, with Almeida confirming himself as another of the brightest of 'this new generation'.
Dani Martínez replaces Rohan Dennis as Ineos' Giro MVP
"Every Giro stage looks like Martínez is getting a nicer Rolex from Bernal," said Phil Gaimon after stage 19.
Just as Rohan Dennis took a lot of the deserved credit for Tao Geoghegan Hart's Giro victory last year, Egan Bernal will have his compatriot Dani Martínez to thank if the maglia rosa remains on his shoulders by the time they arrive in Milan.
The already-iconic image of Martínez rallying his team-mate on stage 17, proving his aptitude for multi-tasking as he acted as both domestique and tifosi simultaneously, and on stage 19 he provided another consummate performance.
After Yates had attacked up the road it was up to Martínez to limit his advantage, keeping the remnants of the GC group within a respectable distance to the Brit, this time his team leader having enough left to profit from the work he'd done to ride away from him and properly defend his overall classification lead.
Despite all this work, Martínez still sits seventh on GC, and will likely secure his first top 10 finish in a Grand Tour.
Tomorrow's mountain stage sets up perfect final showdown
It all comes down to tomorrow.
Simon Yates was disappointed today wasn't harder but is hopeful tomorrow will be much tougher as he hopes to pull off what would be an impressive GC turnaround - and that's saying something considering what we've seen in recent Grand Tours.
A flat opening half of the 164km-long leads up to three category one climbs.
First up is a never-ending 23.7km slog up to Passo San Bernadino, then the slightly harder Splügenplass before a descent down and rush up to the finish line at Alpe Motta.
Yes, the sun will be shining tomorrow (for those in the UK at least - and if that's the case then surely it'll be sunny everywhere) but what's another afternoon spent inside watching the telly? After a Giro that most French GCSE students would describe as "comme ci comme ça", tomorrow's stage 20 is not one to be missed.
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