By Gregor Brown
The Giro d'Italia's "day of truth" looms for the general classification riders on Saturday, a 'tappone' or massive mountain stage through the Alps that finishes at Monte Avena.
It is the last day for the climbers to take an advantage on one another ahead of the time trial on Sunday, which favours only Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in the classification battle.
"Tomorrow is the 'day of truth,'" said Miguel Ángel López (Astana). "Everyone is hoping that they have a good day and everyone is hoping to get the suffering over as soon as possible, because this Giro is getting very long."
After 19 stages, the classification remains relatively tight. López moved up on stage 19 in the overall classification and with his white jersey lead.
Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz (Movistar) leads the race with 1-54 on Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and 2-16 on Roglič. Carapaz team-mate Mikel Landa sits at 3-03 in fourth, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) at 5-07 and López and 5-33.
"I know they are coming after me, both in the race and out of it, and that's one way of testing us," Carapaz said.
"Mikel told me with his own words that he will ride for me to win. He told me himself and I have confidence the team is backing me. The biggest fear tomorrow would be a mishap, the other things I am not thinking about it. I'm not letting it enter my head."
On stage 20 the race climbs 4,000 metres over the famous passes in the Dolomites – Manghen and Rolle – with the final Avena climb at 1,225.
Carapaz will want to defend his lead over the 194km-kilometre stage and keep enough of a buffer to feel safe for the final 17km time trial, stage 20 in Verona.
"Tomorrow will be very complicated," Carapaz explained. "It's lot of kilometres, a lot of vertical meters. With the advantage we have we can play with it against our rivals. We will think about the time trial when we get to Verona."
Roglič will want to move ahead in the mountains to have any chance of being within reach of the pink jersey over the 17km time trial in Verona. However, he seems to have faded from the battle with only Nibali in with a chance of upsetting Ecuador's first Grand Tour win. If Roglič could do it, he would have to launch a long range attack and not wait for the last climb.
"Looking at the GC gaps, you can wonder if the last climb enough to make a big gap that is needed," said Jumbo-Visma sports director Addy Engels talking about Roglič. "So there could be a surprise move and a long range attack before.
"I don't know what will happen. It's a long way from the Passo Rolle to the finish but it's a long descent to, so if you have support guys in front, it's a possibility.
"For sure, Primož will fight till the finish to got the best result possible and that's to take back time. What he showed today looked good but it all comes down to him, he needs the legs.
"It's a 200km stage, it's going to be decisive, that's for sure."
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