Geraint Thomas and Primož Roglič set for 'super-close' final time trial after Giro d'Italia Queen stage showdown
Santiago Buitrago wins stage 19 at Tre Cime di Lavaredo as GC riders exchange blows on the super steep slopes
The Giro d'Italia's general classification is poised on a knife-edge, after neither Geraint Thomas nor Primož Roglič was able pull out a definitive gap on the Queen stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Friday.
The 183km outing from Longarone to Tre Cime di Lavaredo was won by Colombia's Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious), who had been part of the early break. Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) recorded a heartbreaking fourth second place, having attacked but ultimately failing to fend off Buitrago on the final climb.
On a day of pure attrition, the GC riders and their teams rode each other into near submission over five classified climbs. So steep were the last few kilometres that it almost felt as though everything was happening in slow motion, with Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) ultimately putting three seconds into Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) in the final 100m. It means Thomas now leads Roglič by 26sec going into tomorrow's 18.6km mountain time trial to Monte Lussari.
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), third on GC, lost 20 seconds to Thomas and 23 to Roglič – he has 59sec to make up on Thomas tomorrow for the overall win now.
Thomas said afterwards: "It was OK when I went at 400m, but I realised after 100m that 400 is a long way at this altitude. I just tried to pace it. I lost a couple of seconds on the line but it was nice to gain some time on João [Almeida]. It's going to be super close tomorrow.
"I think it's going to be exciting to watch, horrible to do," he said drily.
The stage also offered us a glimpse of the bike Roglič will use for the time trial tomorrow, which features slopes of up to 22% – even steeper than today's.
At the bottom of the second-last climb, Roglič swapped to a machine equipped with a 44-tooth rear sprocket and a single front ring. He's well known for preferring a high cadence and a gear like this will presumably help him preserve that over the steepest slopes.
"It was always a possibility but it not a definite that we were going to change onto that bike, we just had to see how it goes," Roglič's Jumbo-Visma team-mate Rohan Dennis said.
He added: "Unfortunately we couldn't drop G but tomorrow's another big day.
"Today looks like a small climb compared to tomorrow."
An early break of 15 riders took an hour and a lot of hard racing to get established, with a seven-rider core surviving ahead to the last kilometres. Gee made a concerted effort to get away with seven kilometres to go, but Buitrago matched him, 10 seconds behind, pedal rev for pedal rev, before coming round him with 1,500m left and leaving him standing.
Of the GC contenders, it was Almeida who went to the front first, with just two kilometres left to ride. Thomas and Roglič remained untroubled though, and it was the Jumbo-Visma rider who was next to make his move. It was a determined attack that shipped everyone bar Thomas who, after a brief pause was back on his wheel.
Then the maglia rosa himself tried his luck. He distanced Roglič before the Slovenian turned the tables, sprinting past Thomas in the final metres.
Results, Giro d'Italia stage 19: Longarone to Tre Cime di Lavaredo (183km)
1. Santiago Buitrago (Col) Bahrain-Victorious, in 5-28-07
2. Derek Gee (Can) Israel-Premier Tech, at 51s
3. Magnus Cort (Den) EF Education-EasyPost, at 1-46
4. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-49
6. João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-09
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious
8. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, all three at same time
9. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 2-16
10. Einer Rubio (Col) Movistar, at 2-26
General classification after stage 19
- Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, in 81-55-47
- Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 26s
- João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 59s
- Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 4-11
- Eddie Dunbar (Ire) Jayco-AIUla, at 4-53
- Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) at 5-10
- Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-13
- Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5-54
- Andreas Leknessund (Nor) DSM, at 6-08
- Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-52
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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields.
Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.
A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now behind him. But he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.
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