Still so much to play for with tomorrow's deciding 30km ITT in Milan. We'll bring you live coverage from 12:15 UK time.
Caldes - Passo dello Stelvio
Giro d'Italia - 26 May 2012
Giro d'Italia – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 16:25 on 26 May 2012. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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Rodriguez's fourth place gives him 14 points in the red jersey competition and means he overtakes Mark Cavendish by one slender point in the standings - heartbreak for the Team Sky sprinter.
What a victory for De Gendt, who moves up to fourth in the GC with that astonishing ride. Rodriguez is now 31 seconds clear of Hesjedal, with Scarponi in third at 1:51. De Gendt is fourth, at 2:18, while Cunego moves up to fifth.
Scarponi is fifth at 3:33 and Hesjedal sixth at 3:35.
Rodriguez takes fourth place, 3:22 down. That takes him to one point above Mark Cavendish in the red jersey standings...
Nieve takes third place at 2:50. But the pink jersey has passed Scarponi!
Further back, Joaquim Rodriguez has attacked!
Damiano Cunego crosses the line 55 seconds down to take second place.
THOMAS DE GENDT WINS ON THE PASSO DELLO STELVIO!
This is one of the greatest rides in modern cycling...
De Gendt begins to smile as he rounds the last bends and drives up towards the line.
Basso has Gadret on his wheel as he tries to regain on the others.
De Gendt will take the win and the Cima Coppi atop the Stelvio - but what will the time gains be?
How much time will Scarponi gain on his rivals today? Stil no reply from Ryder or Purito...
Scarponi attacks! The Italian has dropped Rodriguez and Hesjedal. There is snow on the side of the road as De Gendt goes under the kite. He is about to make history. Is this the birth of a new Belgian Cannibal?
De Gendt has 1,300m to go and still has a lead of 4:50. Basso is fighting back to the wheel of Uran and Henao.
Henao slows to wait for Uran, his compatriot and team-mate...
Henao will have the Sky management in his ear piece telling him he has to finish above Rodriguez in this quartet if he wants to safeguard Mark Cavendish's red jersey...
Stil Hesjedal leads the chase - no one else will work with him. Basso and Uran lose a few bike lengths on a hairpin, but fights back. And then fades again. Pozzovivo has gone as well! So it's Hesjedal, Scarponi, Rodriguez and Henao riding clear!
De Gendt will be wishing there were time bonuses at the finish... De Gendt is currently 23 seconds down in 3rd place in the virtual GC. This is astonishing.
If it ends like this, De Gendt will be a matter of seconds behind Hesjedal in the GC - meaning tomorrow's ITT would be a thrilling spectacle. Rodriguez, certainly, needs to do something pretty soon if he wants to win the Giro d'Italia.
Hesjedal is the danger man in the time trial and as a result, no one is prepared to lend him a hand. The big Canadian is setting the pace and slowly reeling in Gadret. Yes, the bald Frenchman is now caught as Hesjedal begins to up the tempo. The gap back from De Gendt is 5:16 now.
The pink jersey group start to look at each other - and Hesjedal has to take the initiative and move onto the front. He has Pozzovivo on his wheel and then Scarponi.
Still up ahead from Gadret, we have Nieve and Cunego. Oh, and remember: if Rodriguez does not finish fourth or better, Mark Cavendish will win the red jersey - providing he finishes the stage within the time limit, that is.
Gadret has another pop off the front of the pink jersey group!
With Sky setting the tempo, De Gendt's advantage is coming down a little. 5:15 at the latest gap. The Belgian will win the stage, for sure, but will he hold onto his podium position.
The steepest parts of the climb have been done, but there is another steep ramp towards the end. Sky now lead the charge, with Henao and Uran setting the pace. Hesedal, Gadret, Basso, Scarponi, Rodriguez, Pozzovivo and Dupont follow. Caruso, like Vande Velde, has now been distanced.
ATTACK: John Gadret of AG2R has launched himself from the chasing pink jersey group. The Frenchman sparks a reaction from the Sky pair of Henao and Uran, who reel him back in. Vande Velde has been spat out the back, while De Gendt is now 5:30 ahead - that's just 10 seconds off the VIRTUAL PINK JERSEY.
Cunego continues his lone pursuit of De Gendt, but he is a long way down the road - we're talking 1:05, with Nieve another 20 seconds. De Gendt looks over his shoulder and back town the valley. He's beginning to suffer a little, his mouth open and his face red.
The main group is still being led by Garmin and Liquigas, with Hedjedal, Vande Velde, Basso and Caruso riding in respective couplets. Behind they have Uran, Henao, Scarponi, Rodriguez, Pozzovivo, Gadret and one or two others, so it's thinning out.
We're well above the tree line now as De Gendt continues up these tight hairpins amid a sea of fans. We can see a bit of snow now. The Belgian is just 35 seconds from the virtual pink jersey. He's not a bad time triallist either!
The pink jersey group has caught Andrey Amador of Movistar. They are still yet to reach the 10km-to-go banner. Up the road, De Gendt, his shirt untucked, is roaring on. He looks so strong. Such a dark horse. And the gap is 5:05 now as the main group do pass under the banner.
Hesjedal drops back to ride alongside Uran and behind Basso. It's still Vande Velde on the front, but the American looks on the ropes.
Nieve is catching Cunego as they pass the 10km-to-go banner. They are 58 seconds down on De Gendt, who is riding like a man possessed. Can the Belgian youngster hold on? Surely he'll tire at some point?
This is becoming quite historic from De Gendt: he is now FIVE MINUTES ahead of the pink jersey group - at this rate, he'll be the one in the pink jersey tonight...
This is quite astonishing riding from De Gendt - he now has 4:10 over the pink jersey. At this rate he'll take the win and move onto the podium!
Nieve has nothing and has been well distanced while Cunego rides between the Spaniard and De Gendt. The pink jersey group is getting smaller and smaller - now it's just around 15 riders, including all the big guns. Still Vande Velde sets the pace for his Garmin team-mate Hesjedal. But De Gendt has 3:50 on them and is going strong.
The three leaders enter a second tunnel. There are lots of those on this climb - along with 40 hairpin bends. And Thomas De Gendt has attacked! The Belgian has dropped the others...
Chapeau Cunego! The Ialian is back on the wheels of De Gendt and Nieve. He used all his experience there - superb riding.
Zaugg has been caught and passed by the maglia rosa group, which is still pretty large. Up ahead, Cunego is gaining on the leading duo.
Hesjedal still has Vande Velde, Basso still has Caruso, Uran still has Henao, but both Scarponi and Rodriguez appear to be isolated. Pozzovivo, too. The gap has gone back out to 3:50 so Nieve and De Gendt are riding extremely well.
Cunego has not given up - the Italian is settling into his rhythm and looks to be regaining on the two leaders, Nieve and De Gendt.
The gap is still around 3:30 as Valde Velde continues to set the pace for Hesjedal in the main chasing group.
It's Nieve's birthday today - victory would be perhaps the best present possible. De Gendt will hope to spoil his party, mind.
They have been in the saddle for six hours now! Amador has cracked, but Cunego continues to try to maintain contact with the two leaders.
Astana's Tanel Kangert is the next rider to pop, leaving just four on the front: Amador, Nieve, De Gendt and Cunego. Then De Gendt attacks! Only Nieve can hold his wheel, and the others drop back...
All the big guns are here in the main group: Hesjedal, Rodriguez, Scarponi, Basso, Uran, Henao, Pozzovivo, Gadret... and a dozen or so others. Vande Velde's pace setting sees the gap come down to 3:35.
Nieve and De Gendt set the pace with the leading quintet. Back with the pink jersey group, it's Vande Velde setting the pace for Canada's Hesjedal on the front. A handful of riders, including Tiralongo, have already been dropped.
The winner of today's stage will win the prestigious Cima Coppi prize. The legendary Fausto Coppi believed he 'was going to die' while climbing the Passo dello Stelvio during the 1953 Giro.
Izagirre is the next to crack, so we're down to just five leading riders now. The pink jersey group is 3:48 back. Hesjedal leads Kreuziger, Scarponi and Basso on the front.
Zaugg is already suffering at the start of this climb - understandably, given his effort on the Mortirolo. There is a huge amount of snow at the summit. De Gendt sets the pace now - and that's it, Zaugg is already off the back.
The six leaders are onto the Cat.1 Passo Stelvio - 22.4km, 6.9%, 12% max. This climb could well decide the 2012 Giro d'Italia.
Garmin are on the front of the main pink jersey group. Hesjedal is getting some food on board ahead of this final climb up the Stelvio. The riders enter the town of Bormio - the gap is 3:54.
The leaders are being paced by the Euskaltel pair of Nieve and Izagirre. The others are happy to conserve their energy - De Gendt knows what's at stake on the final climb, while Cunego has his team-mate Scarponi to think about.
A chasing group of BMC's Tschopp and Frank, QuickStep's Cataldo and Pauwels, Ag2r's Dupont and Katusha's Losada have almost been caught by the pink jersey group.
The latest time check is 3:40 and so the gap is coming down. Hesjedal has Garmin team-mates Peter Stetina and Christian Valde Velde with him. The latter was in the early break today but dropped back after the Mortirolo to lend a hand.
Zaugg is caught by the De Gendt group and they form a seven-man leading group: De Gendt, Nieve, Izagirre (not Txurruka), Cunego, Zaugg, Amador and Kangert.
Nieve, Txurruka, De Gendt, Kangert, Amador and Cunego are riding as a six-man breakaway group. Zaugg looks to have given up as he rides onto a lumpy unsealed road. He has just 40 seconds now, with the bunch another four minutes back.
The road is heading uphill now, although this is still not a part of the Stelvio climb proper. Zaugg is now suffering and has just 1:10 over the chasing group, which is pulling further ahead of the pink jersey group - it's over four minutes now.
De Gendt is only 5:40 down in the GC and so has a lot to gain today. As it is, he's riding onto a virtual place on the podium.
Back in the pink jersey group, Tiralongo talks tactics to Kreuziger. A huge effort for the Italian to be back here after that horrible face plant on the short downhill section two-thirds up the Mortirolo.
The Cunego-De Gendt group is 2:00 down on the lone leader, with the pink jersey group another 3:40 further back. Nieve, Kangert and Txurruka are with them now.
The De Gendt group catches Serpa and Amador so we have six chasing now, also including Cunego, Carrara and Losada. The Euskaltel pair of Nieve and Txurruka are about to catch them with Kangert. Zaugg now has almost six minutes over the pink jersey group - but will he pay for his hard work once he hits the slopes of the Stelvio?
Zaugg takes an energy gel from his team car. He has 1:40 on the chasing Serpa group and 3:00 on the De Gendt group. The peloton are just a bit further back. Damiano Caruso needs a new bike and drops back - so the Italian has gone from being in the lead to being off the back of the pink jersey group, and he'll need to chase back to help out his leader Basso.
Lots of attacks coming in now: first an Astana rider pings off the front with gusto - it's Tanel Kangert. His move is followed by a double Euskaltel attack from Mikel Nieve and Amets Txurruka.
Purito takes off his black gilet and tosses it to his Katusha team car. Both of Sky's Colombians is in this group, as is Kreuziger, who was in the early break today. De Gendt has joined three other riders about 30 seconds up the road - Losada is there with Carrara and Cunego, who must have attacked on the descent.
It looks like Caruso has sat up - the Liquigas rider must have been called back by the team car to lend a hand to Basso.
Zaugg is now down in the valley and having a chat with his team car. The chasing group is 1:40 down - Amador, Caruso and Serpa. Vande Velde is another 15 seconds back.
Basso is back there with the big boys. Gadret is there as well, and Uran for Sky.
Amador, Caruso and Serpa have dropped Losada and Vande Velde on the descent as they continue their pursuit of Zaugg. Back with the main GC riders, pink has become black for Rodriguez, who has put on a gilet for this descent.
We're waiting on a time check back to Basso, who was dropped by the main group towards the end of that Mortirolo.
Zaugg has about 30 seconds over a group of five - Vande Velde, Caruso, Amador, Losada and Serpa. De Gendt is riding at 2:30 and the pink jersey group at 3:05.
This will be a very important descent indeed. We're still waiting for the breakdown after that climb - the trees and the hoards of fans made it hard to take stock of the situation.
Stalemate for the pink jersey group, who pass over the summit of the Mortirolo 3:10 down. Basso is a bit further back it seems.
Carrara appears to hit the wall and fades, but De Gendt continues on his way towards the summit. He could move up the GC if he builds on this.
ATTACK: Thomas de Gendt pulls off the front of the pink jersey group! And the Belgian joins his team-mate Matteo Carrara further up the road. This is an excellent move.
Oliver Zaugg crosses the summit of the Cat.1 Mortirolo to pick up the Cima Pantani after a superb effort on this hellish climb.
Kreuziger has been caught by the pink jersey chasing group. Zaugg is still alone but will pick up the Cima Pantani prize soon.
The crowds are huge. One prat tried to give Zaugg a hand but almost pushes him over and into the grass verge. Further back, there appears to be a bottleneck after a problem with some team cars. Yes, the Lampre car has broken down on a narrow part so the road. That will be a problem.
Zaugg struggles on and the main group is now onto the steep section of this climb. Hesjedal is right on the front alongside De Gendt, who is putting in a huge ride.
CRASH: Tiralongo face plants on a tight bend on that small downhill section. The Italian appeared to get his wheel caught and went over the handlebars and right down on the tarmac. Matteo Bono then crashed into him. Nasty.
Caruso, Amador, Vande Velde and Serpa continue on their way in pursuit of Zaugg.
After that brief respite, Zaugg is back onto the uphill. He'll soon is the narrow asphalt track and the steepest 22% sections. Yes, here he is. Gosh, this is hellish. There will be pain here, multiplied by 160.
Tiralongo is struggling to hold on to the main group. Zaugg is on the small downhill stretch ahead of the final rise to the summit. He leads the other escapees by 16 seconds and the pink jersey group by 2:50.
Zaugg is opening up a large gap on the front now. He has 2:45 over the Rodriguez group, which is still being led by both Pauwels and Cataldo of QuickStep.
Thomas de Gendt of Vacansoleil-DCM is in the pink jersey group. The Belgian is having a very good Giro and is on course for a top ten finish in Milan. At the front of the race, Zaugg pulls clear once again - the Swiss is clearly feeling on form today.
Carrara is no longer with the leaders. The Italian has been dropped, but Garmin's Vande Velde has made contact. Amador is almost there too, but Kreuziger doesn't have it in him after yesterday's exploits. Further back, Matteo Bono, who was in the early break, is caught by the pink jersey group. The gap is 3:10 now.
QuickStep pair Dario Cataldo and Serge Pauwels are in this main pink jersey group - in fact, they're the ones driving the pace. Hesjedal has a word with Pauwels, but the Belgian ignores him and continues the pace. Basso is getting into his rhythm and now has Rodriguez in his wheel. Nieve is there too at the back.
Up front, Serpa has joined the leaders to form a quartet with Caruso, Zaugg and Carrara.
Scarponi, Hesjedal and Henao can follow Purito and look to have opened up a gap - but it comes back together. Basso and Uran rejoin them, followed by Pozzovivo and Tiralongo and a cluster of other riders.
Scarponi and Hesjedal respond first. Uran and Henao, the Sky pair, manage to make contact. Basso just gets back onto their wheel, when the pink jersey attacks once more!
ATTACK: Rodriguez breaks clear off the front of the main group!
Lampre's Alessandro Spezialetti is the man on the front of the peloton. Androni's Miguel Rubiano has a mechanical problem and drops out of the pink jersey group. The Colombian won a stage way back in the opening week of the race.
Remember, there are sections of this hellish climb that are 22%. This year there is a special prize - the Cima Pantani - in honour of the late 1998 Giro winner, Marco Pantani.
Caruso has almost caught the two leaders. This is an excellent ride by Ivan Basso's team-mate.
Still Zaugg leads Carrara on the front, with Caruso of Liquigas leading the chase alongside two others from that initial break.
A lone Lampre rider sets the pace on the front of the bunch, with a couple of Garmin riders in his wheels. A bit further back, the familiar faces of Basso, Scarponi, Hesjedal and Rodriguez bob in and out of view.
Carrara refused to lend a hand to Zaugg and it's the Swiss who sets the pace. The gap back to the pink jersey group is now 3:05.
Zaugg has been joined on the front of the race by Vacansoleil-DCM's Matteo Carrara. It must have been the Italian in the break, and not his team-mate Stefan Denifl as first reported.
This early part of the climb is covered in dense woodland, rendering the helicopter pictures somewhat pointless except when there's a slight break in the trees. The whole race has been blown apart as riders suffer their way up in drips and drabs.
Zaugg rides off the front alone! Further back, both Rabottini and Clement have been considerably distanced off the back of the group. RadioShack are without a win in this year's race - Zaugg clearly wants to change that.
This is impressive riding from the relatively inexperienced Slagter. He's on the front and causing many of the break to drop back. In fact, there are only eight together now, with six already off the back. Now Zaugg comes forward to set the pace, followed by Serpa.
The main pack hit the climb and straight away we have a battle as the favourites come to the front. They trail the leading group by 2:25.
It's Slagter and Kreuziger setting the early pace on the climb - described by Lance Armstrong as the hardest climb he ever rode.
Liquigas, as we have seen so often during the past three weeks, are driving the pace. The leaders are now onto the Cat.1 Mortirolo - 11.4km, 10.5% average, 22% max. Showtime!
The gap back to the pink jersey group is now 2:50. Matteo Rabottini is on the back of the break, his work for the day done. The Italian has assured the blue jersey regardless of what happens on the next two (and final two) climbs of the Giro.
The leaders are onto the small downhill stretch that will take them to the foot of the Mortirolo. Then, there will be nowhere to hide.
The peloton has also shed a load of deadwood at the start of this bump ahead of the Mortirolo. There are about three smaller groups forming off the back of the climb. Back with the leaders, it's Serpa setting the pace.
On those disqualifications reported on earlier, Guardini was one of the four to be ejected - alongside Rollin, Velasco and Hunter. Apparently it was for "motor-pacing" after the Tonale climb.
Clement leads the breakaway up an initial rise ahead of the Mortirolo climb proper. The gap is still around 3:40.
The leaders are approaching the intermediate sprint at Tirano. Unsurprisingly, it's uncontested, with Serpa crossing in pole ahead of Clement and Vande Velde.
Five Liquigas riders now tucked in on the front of the bunch behind the two Colnado pace-setters. It's another Liquigas rider, Damiano Caruso, who is taking a turn on the front of the break.
The 14-man Kreuziger group has 3:45 on the peloton as we approach the first big test of the day, the Cat.1 Mortirolo.
Finally Stef Clement peels off the front and allows Mathias Frank of BMC to come through and take a lead. Now they're onto a downhill and then flat section, all 14 of the leaders are taking it in turns to pull on the front. Oh, until Clement gets back there and stays.
Timon Seubert (NetApp) has withdrawn from the race. Those riders disqualified are Robbie Hunter (Garmin), Ivan Velasco (Euskaltel) and Dominique Rollin (FDJ). Still no confirmation on what they did wrong. Hunter did crash yesterday.
The peloton is on to that rise in the road, and Colnago take up the pace-setting with a lone Euskaltel rider. Back with the break, it's Stef Clement driving the tempo for Rabobank, not Slagter. News is filtering in regarding the disqualification of a number of riders, including Robbie Hunter of Garmin. More on that when we get it.
The 14 leaders are onto the short and sharp unclassified climb that breaks up this otherwise flat drag towards the foot of the Mortirolo. The gap is just below five minutes as Tom Slagter drives the pace. Back in the bunch, it has strung out as Garmin continue the high tempo. We have one more withdrawal to report: Jack Bobridge of Orica GreenEdge has thrown in the towel.
Everyone goes on about the Stelvio, but the Mortirolo is a brutal climb in its own right - in fact, Lance Armstrong, no less, famously said in 2004 that it was the hardest climb he had ever ridden. Marco Pantani climbed both the Mortirolo and the Stelvio in wonderful fashion in 1994 on his way to a stage victory of the Giro.
Garmin are doing all the work now on what is arguagbly the biggest day since Jonathan Vaughters' team formed back in 2007. In Ryder Hesjedal, they have a man on the cusp of a possible Giro d'Italia victory. He's stronger than his main rivals in time trialling, so as long as he remains in touch of the summit today, he'll have a chance to overturn a deficit tomorrow.
The leaders are approaching the feeding zone with 5:40 over the pack. Colnago and Garmin lead the peloton, with one Euskaltel riders there too. Liquigas are a bit further back, ahead of the entire Katusha team.
The gap comes back down to five minutes having risen as high as six minutes. Colnago have five riders on the front of the pack now, trying to reel this group in and set up their man Dominco Pozzovivo. The teams of all the other favourites all have men in the break, so they missed a trick this morning.
Stage 18 winner Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini) has withdrawn from the race. The Italian youngster outsprinted Mark Cavendish on Thursday and got himself into yesterday's early breakaway. But Guardini was dropped on the second climb of the day and finished the stage on his own (and in floods of tears) in last position, a huge 46:44 off the pace in Alpe di Pampeago.
We have confirmation of the order over that last climb, the Cat.3 Teglio: 1. Rabottini (5pts), 2. Amador (3pts), 3. Clement (2pts).
The lead is up to six minutes for the Kreuziger group over the peloton. They're on the descent towards the feeding zone at Chiuro. Then we have 25km of flat, with one slight rise, before the final two climbs of the day, the Mortirolo and the Slelvio.
The 14 leaders have crossed the summit of the Cat.3 Teglio and have a gap of 5:25 over the peloton.
Roman Kreuziger is going for back-to-back wins in the Giro today. That hasn't been achieved since 2009 when Alessandro Petacchi won stages two and three. The last non-sprinter to do the double was Emanuele Sella, in 2008 (stages 14 and 15).
Colnago are going hard on the front of the peloton on the Teglio climb - the Italian team do not have a rider in the break and so missed a trick. The gap is still around the four-minute mark for the leading Kreuziger group.
Confirmation that Rabottini took the 5 points atop the Aprica, with Amador in second (3pts), Clement third (2pts) and Frank fourth (1pt).
We're approaching the third climb of the day now, the Cat.3 Teglio - 5.9km, 8% average, 15% max.
The lead is up to four minutes on this fast descent, as Ivan Basso's Liquigas team comes to the front of the bunch. Basso wants a win for his son Santiago on his birthday today. He'll be hoping for a better ascent of the Stelvio than in 2005, when he lost a whopping 42 minutes - yes, that's 42 minutes. If Basso fails to deliver the goods today it will be a blow to Liquigas, who have ridden the past three weeks as if they had the pink jersey - but maybe to no avail.
Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini) led the break over the summit of the Cat.3 Aprica to further consolidate his lead in the blue jersey mountains competition. The gap back to the bunch is 2:55.
There's a lot of snow at the finish on the Passo Stelvio - not fresh falling snow, but piles of snow left over from the winter which still lines the mountain pass. Last year, stage 15 of the race featured the Stelvio climb and its demanding descent. Spaniard Mikel Nieve won. The Euskaltel rider is in this year's race too, and may try something later today. His team are not in the break today, tellingly. It's also his birthday today as well...
Finally, we have confirmation of the order over the first climb of the day earlier on, the Passo del Tonale: 1. Rabottini (9pts), 2. Slagter (5pts), 3. Clement (3pts), 4. Losada (2pts), 5. Bono (1pt). That means Rabottini increases his tally to 74 in the KOM standings, with his nearest rival, Stefano Pirazzi, still on 44. It looks like Rabottini will secure the blue jersey today.
So, to confirm: it's not Alexander Kristoff in the group as first reported, but his Katusha team-mate Alberto Losada. There's also no place for Mathieu Perget (Ad2r) in the group. But Rabobank have two riders, with Stef Clement now confirmed as one of the 14 alongside the youngster Slagter. Another direct swap: it's Androni's Jose Serpa and not Emanuele Sella. Finally, previous stage winner Andrey Amador is here - so Movistar have two.
The names from the group have been slightly revised. There are 14 riders here, and not 13. They are: Roman Kreuziger (Astana), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Barracuda), Damiano Caruso (Liquigas), Tom Slagter (Rabobank), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Branislaw Samoilau (Movistar), Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini), Oliver Zaugg (RadioShack), Stefan Denifl (Vacansoleil-DCM), Mathias Frank (BMC), Matteo Bono (Lampre), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Jose Serpa (Androni) and Stef Clement (Rabobank).
We're onto the Car.3 Aprica - 15.9km, 3.1% average, 9% max. The gap is down to 2:55 for the 14 leaders.
This long descent off the back of the Passo del Tonale is almost over. The leaders are 3:25 ahead of the pack.
In the white jersey youth classification, Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) leads compatriot and team-mate Sergio Henao by 2:26, with Italian Gianluca Brambilla (Colnago) in third, at 4:57.
The gap is up to 3:10 for the 14 leaders.
Rabobank have had a pretty torrid Giro and they will hope the impressive youngster Tom Slagter can put in a good ride today. Slagter has been, pretty much, the only positive for Rabobank over the past few weeks - aside a couple of top fives from Mark Renshaw. He's a strong climber - and definitely one for the future.
The lead of the Kreuziger group is up to 1:45 on this fast descent. Kreuziger is the best-placed rider in the GC, 12:21 down on race leader Joaquim Rodriguez. The Czech lost most of that time all on the stage to Piani dei Resinelli, when he cracked on the Passo Giau.
They're onto the long descent towards the second climb of the day, the Aprica. This 30km stretch is the longest segment of downhill today - susequent descents are short and sharp.
The leading group of 14 have passed over the summit of the Passo Tonale, with the peloton crossing around 40 seconds in arrears. We'll bring you the order ovr the top as soon as we get it confirmed through race radio.
It's a very interesting collection of riders in this 13-man break. Notice how the teams of GC favourites Hesjedal, Scarponi, Rodriguez and Basso have all got men up front. Garmin have Vande Velde, Lampre have Bono, Katusha have Kristoff and Liquigas have Caruso. For Liquigas in particular, this marks a totally different tactic. The Italian team usually employ Caruso as a pace-setter for Basso in the mountains.
The break has 40 seconds. The riders are: Roman Kreuziger (Astana), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Barracuda), Damiano Caruso (Liquigas), Tom Slagter (Rabobank), Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli), Branislaw Samoilau (Movistar), Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini), Mathieu Perget (Ag2r), Oliver Zaugg (RadioShack), Stefan Denifl (Vacansoleil-DCM), Mathias Frank (BMC), Matteo Bono (Lampre), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).
BREAK: We have 13 riders out in front, including yesterday's winner Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and the blue jersey Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini). Full composition coming right up.
The riders are onto the first climb of the day, the Cat.2 Passo del Tonale - 10.1km long, 6.1k% average gradient, 8% max. No breaks so far - but you can certainly expect to see a few riders dropped off the back pretty soon. It's terrible to say, but a lot of riders will not complete today's stage - it's that hard.
It's not just the pink and red jersey that could well be decided today: this being the mountains, the blue KOM jersey is up for grabs - and it's far from a formality. Before yesterday's stage, Italian Matteo Rabottini held a large lead following his splendid solo win in stage 15 to Piani deil Resinelli. But another Italian, Stefano Pirazzi (Colnago), crossed the first four summits in pole position yesterday and now has 44 points to Rabottini's 65.
At 2757 metres above sea level, the Stelvio is the highest finish of any Grand Tour. The climb boasts numerous tunnels and 48 hairpin bends - that's 27 more than Alpe d'Huez. It is not, however, Europe's higest road pass - that accolade belongs to the Col d'Iseran. Before the Slelvio showdown, we have the Mortirolo, which is using a new route today for the first time. It is said to be even steeper and narrower than usual.
The battle for the red jersey continues as well, with Mark Cavendish having done all he can do to keep the red jersey to Milan. The world champion saw his advantage at the top slashed to just 13 points yesterday after race leader Rodriguez picked up points for his third-place finish at Alpe di Pampeago. If the Spaniard finishes in the top four today, he will dethrone Cavendish: indeed, fourth place will give Rodriguez 14 points, meaning he will hold a slender one-point lead over Cav.
We have five classified climbs today, starting with the Cat.2 Passo Tonale - 10.1km long, 6.1k% average gradient, 8% max. This is followed by two Cat.3 climbs also in the first half of the long stage: the Aprica (15.9km, 3.1% average, 9% max) and the Teglio (5.9km, 8% average, 15% max). Then the business begins. First up with te Cat.1 Mortirolo - 11.4km, 10.5% average, 22% max - and finally the Cat.1 Passo Stelvio - 22.4km, 6.9%, 12% max.
They're off! The 95th edition of the Giro d'Italia's day of destiny is under way. 163 riders took to the start, with no overnight withdrawals to report.
Ryder Hesjedal's magnificent ride yesterday saw the Canadian cut the deficit at the top to just 17 seconds, so Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will be looking over his shoulder at his Garmin-Barracuda rival. Michele Scarponi (Lampre) moved into second after Ivan Basso's travails. Scarponi is 1:39 down and Basso is 1:45 down, with Colombian youngster Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) completing the top five, 3:21 down.
It's a sunny day in Caldes, with temperatures in the high teens for this early stage start.
Yesterday, Roman Kreuziger saved his Giro d'Italia with a superb solo win atop Alpe di Pampeago in stage 19 ahead of the impressive Ryder Hesjedal. The Czech Astana rider, who crumbled during Thursday's stage 17 to Cortina d'Ampezzo, reminded the cycling world of his climbing talent after breaking away on the penultimate climb of the gruelling 198-kilometre stage from Treviso in the Italian Alps.
Welcome to live coverage of stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia, a fearsome 219km mountain trek through the Alps from Caldes to the Passo dello Stelvio. Today's stage could well decide the ultimate destiny of the pink jersey and is bound to be a huge spectacle.