Roman Kreuziger (Astana) salvaged his Giro d’Italia today when he hung on to win the brutal 19th stage to Alpe di Pampeago.
The Czech fell out of overall contention when he lost over 11 minutes on Wednesday’s leg to Cortina d’Amprezzo. But he was able to turn around his fortunes when he attacked on the penultimate climb of today’s stage and picked off the survivors of the day’s early breakaway.
By the line Kreuziger had all but destroyed himself, but he took the stage by a margin of 19 seconds.
Behind him Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) claimed second place to gain time on all of his overall rivals and move to within 17 seconds of Joquain Rodriguez’s (Katusha) pink leader’s jersey.
With the Canadian having turned the screw in the final 2.5km, the rest of the favourites crossed the line in dribs and drabs behind him. With a last ditch effort in the final kilometre, Rodriguez overhauled Scarponi for third place on the stage at 32 seconds.
Despite having had his Liquigas team set the pace for much of the stage, Ivan Basso lost the best part of a minute and slipped from third to fourth overall. Sky’s Rigoberto Uran finished with him to maintain his grip on the best young rider’s white jersey.
His team mate Mark Cavendish came in with the ‘autobus’ to keep his red points jersey for the time being.
Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago-CSF) and Sandy Casar (FDJ-Big Mat) set the early running after escaping from a larger break on the first time up the Passo Pampeago at the start of a 45km finishing loop.
Thomas Rohregger (Radioshack-Nissan) and Emanuele Selle (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) briefly rejoined them before the finishing ascent of the same climb but were dispatched, as earlier, on its lower slopes.
Kreuziger meanwhile had set off from the main group of favorites on the intermediate ascent of the Passo Lavaze, joining Dario Cataldo and Serge Pauwels (both Omega Pharma-Quick Step) before the summit.
After continuing the chase down the descent, he dropped his two companions and worked his way through the four remaining riders up the road.
Of the main chase group a minute or so behind, Scarponi was the key protagonist attacking no less than three times.
Hesjedal was the quickest to respond each time with Rodriguez on his wheel. But after following through on Scarponi’s third attempt with 2.2km to go, Hesjedal saw daylight emerge between his rivals. Rodriguez and Basso distanced, he eventually dropped Scarponi as he entered the final kilometre.
After today’s monster stage which went over five classified climbs, the racers face an even more ferocious day tomorrow. Following three mere lung-openers, they’ll tackle the fearsomely steep Mortirolo before -weather conditions permitting- finishing at over 2750m above sea level on the Stelvio.
If that doesn’t decide the overall, all will come down to Sunday’s 31.5km time trial in Milan.
Giro d’Italia 2012, stage 19: Treviso-Alpe di Pampeago, 197km
1. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Astana 6-18-03
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Barracuda at 19 secs
3. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 32 secs
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 35 secs
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago-CSF-Inox at 43 secs
6. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 55 secs
7. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky at 57 secs
8. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-18
9. Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Colnago-CSF at 1-22
10. John Gadret (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale) same time
Overall classification after stage 19
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha 84-06-13
2. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Barracuda at 17 secs
3. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 1-39
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 1-45 secs
5. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky at 3-21
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago-CSF-Inox at 3-30
7. John Gadret (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale) at 5-36
8. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM at 5-40
9. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky at 5-47
10. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 6-09
Mark Cavendish receives some assistance
Roman Kreuziger goes solo
Ryder Hesjedal attacks Michele Scarponi
Roman Kreuziger wins
Giro d’Italia 2012: Latest news
Giro d’Italia 2012: Live coverage
Giro d’Italia 2012: Stage reports
Stage 18: Guardini beats Cavendish in final Giro sprint
Stage 17: Rodriguez wins stage to consolidate lead
Stage 16: Izagirre claims Basque breakaway victory
Stage 15: Rabottini takes tough win in Giro
Stage 14: Amador wins Giro’s first high mountain stage as Hesjedal reclaims lead
Stage 13: Cavendish makes it three
Stage 12: Bak attacks to win
Stage 11: Ferrari wins Giro stage on ride to redemption
Stage 10: Rodriguez wins thrilling finale to take lead
Stage nine: Ventoso wins in Frosinone as Goss and Cavendish fall
Stage eight: Pozzovivo takes another Giro win
Stage seven: Hesjedal moves into Giro lead
Stage six: Rubiano solos to epic Giro stage win
Stage five: Cavendish bounces back for another stage win
Stage four: Garmin-Barracuda win TTT to take lead
Stage three: Goss wins in Horsens as Cavendish and Phinney crash
Stage two: Cavendish wins in Herning
Stage one: Phinney wins time trial
Giro d’Italia 2012: Photo galleries
Giro d’Italia 2012: Blogs
Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Conserving energy for the final week
Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Holding on to the lead
Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Getting the team time trial right
Giro moto blog: Hurray for rest day
Giro moto blog: Stage 10
Giro d’Italia 2012: Teams and riders
Giro d’Italia 2012: TV guide