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.
How it unfolded
Froome opens up his gap
Maglia rosa hopes dim for Dumoulin
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