29/05/15 - 4:30 PM
Gravellona Toce - Breuil-Cervinia
Giro d'Italia • Stage19

Gravellona Toce - Breuil-Cervinia
Giro d'Italia - 29 May 2015

Giro d'Italia – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 16:30 on 29 May 2015. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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Yes, there it is: Contador leads Aru by 4'37 in the overall standings while Landa stays at 5:15 but drops to the third rung on the podium. With just one more mountain stage ahead of the final processional ride into Milan, it's as good as won for Contador - although he's still looking for that elusive win... perhaps tomorrow's finish in Sestriere will tie things up nicely. See you there...


Aru is back into second place, but still trails Contador by the best part of five minutes. Confirmed standings coming up...


Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep) crosses the line for third place over a minute down and ahead of the maglia rosa group, which trails Aru by 1:17.


Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) comes home for second place at 28 seconds.


Victory for Italy's Favio Aru! It's a fourth win in this race for Astana - and he's pumping his fists in joy as he crosses the line...


Aru is going to take this win - the road levels out as he passes under the kite. Bravo - he's got something from this race, and will be back in second place tonight.


Aru could be riding back into second place if Landa doesn't get his wiggle on.


The locals want Aru to win - but Hesjedal won't be an unpopular winner either. He's been a positive attacking force this past week - and should not be ruled out. He's 25 seconds down though, with the maglia rosa group at 1:10.


Attack for Rigoberto Uran! The Etixx-QuickStep rider soars clear of the pink jersey group. But Aru now has one minute to play with - albeit with Hesjedal closing in.


Aru has his pain face on - and it's not a pretty sight. Meanwhile, Uran has joined the maglia rosa group after attacking in the tunnel.


The fans are going fairly crazy for Aru as he approaches a tunnel. He has Hesjedal at 10 seconds and the others - Contador, Landa, Kruijswijk and Konig - at 40 seconds. Behind, there's another trio of Uran, Nieve and Kangert.


Aru has opened up a 40-second gap on the maglia rosa group, which is being driven by Konig and Kruijswijk.


Aru has caught Hesjedal - and then puts in an attack. But the Canadian won't let him get away that easily. Or will he... after a big dig, Hesjedal caves in and lets the Italian go.


Konig has fought back to Landa and Contador just as Kruijswijk ups the tempo. The Dutchman edges ahead but it then reeled in.


Another attack from Aru! And this time there's no response from the others. The white jersey rides on towards the Canadian lone leader...


Hesjedal, the 2012 champion, has had an outstanding second half to his Giro - such a shame he lost so much time in the opening week. He's ahead, but will soon be joined by Landa, Aru, Contador and Kruijswijk.


Now Aru has a pop! Hesjedal has it covered. Kruijswijk, Landa and Contador there too. And in the subsequent lull, Hesjedal rides clear. There's a Sky rider there too - perhaps Konig.


ATTACK: Siutsou edges ahead of the peloton and opens up a small gap. Then Astana up the tempo... Landa, Contador and Hesjedal can folow. Then, after a brief pause, Aru, Uran and Kruijswijk manage to fight back on.


Contador still has two riders - but they're riding in his wheel, and not the opposite. It's Rogers and Basso, I believe. Sky have taken a back seat, but they have Konig, Nieve and Siutsou to play with.


Just 20 seconds now for Visconti, who will soon be sweapt up to spark mayhem in the main pack.


Fabio Aru and his Astana team-mates each take on a bidon with an energy gel attached. They mean business today.


Visconti's face is one of tiredness, pain and resignation. He should be in the blue jersey tonight, so it's a job well done - but that will pile on the pressure for him tomorrow: he'll have to defend the jersey on the final two climbs of the race. He has one minute now on the pack, which is being driven by Astana still.


It's full gas for Astana - can they take their fourth stage of the race, adding to the two scalps for Landa and one for Paolo Tiralongo?


The reason why the average gradient of this final climb is so low is because these early sections are only 2%. But soon it will ramp up. It's an irregular profile with a maximum gradient of 12% just ahead of the midway point. Lone leader Visconti's gap is already down to 1:35, while Kochetkov has been caught.


Visconti is onto the lower slopes of the final climb to Cervinia, which has an average gradient of 5%. Movistar have a good record here: Andrey Amador won back in 2012.


The descent completed, Visconti will soon be heading upwards once again - and for the final time. He will struggle big time to stay out ahead when the battle begins for the big race favourites behind.


Visconti has just under two minutes on the peloton, with Kochethov riding 20 seconds ahead of the pack on this descent.


CORRECTION: Visconti now leads the KOM standings after those two Cat.1 max points haul. He's on 125 points, with Movistar team-mate Intxausti now on 107 and Kruijswijk on 103.


Out of the saddle goes Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) as he crests the summit of the Col Saint-Pantaleon to take maximum points. Behind, Kruijswijk pings out of the peloton to spark a response from Intxausti. Before they arrive, lone chaser Pavel Kochetkov of Katusha takes second place over the summit. And then around the corner comes Benat Intxausti, who had shed Steven Kruijswijk. The Dutchman went very early so it's no surprise he popped. And it's Intxausti who consolidates his virtual lead in the blue jersey competition.


Steven Kruijswijk, the current blue jersey, is placed near the front, ready to pounce for some points. He needs to get more than Intxausti to secure the lead in the KOM competition - although this man Visconti, a team-mate of Intxausti's at Movistar - will be right in the mix should he take maximum points over this second successive Cat.1 climb.


The pace has eased up because the pack is still around 40-strong as Astana control the tempo for their men Landa and Aru. Rigoberto Uran is still just about holding on to the back, while Visconti rides with 2:13 to play with. Kochetkov is somewhere in between in no man's land.


We're going through the village of Semon a few kilometres from the summit. Kochetkov is now 1:07 down on Visconti and so looks to be fading on this steep 13% segment.


Team Sky still have four riders in the pack so perhaps they will try something with Leopold Konig. Visconti should survive to the summit but for not much longer: his lead is down to 2:25.


It's quite blustery up near the summit - although the sun is shining bright in a blue sky. Contador only has two team-mates left - veterans Mick Rogers and Ivan Basso. Astana have five riders on the front, making Landa very much the favourite for today's stage - provided he can drop the maglia rosa on the final climb.


So, Gio Visconti and Pavel Kochetkov are the only two of the initial nine-man break who are out ahead. The gap for the Spaniard is 2:40.


The peloton has been whittled down to about 40 riders now. Rigoberto Uran is near the back - he's had a troubled Giro, to say the least. And there's Vasil Kiryienka, winner of last weekend's ITT, who has been caught by the pack.


Visconti has 50 seconds over Kochetkov. He's looking good - and will certainly take the KOM points at the top.


It can't be denied that Mikel Landa calls a spade a spade. His words have been as refreshing as his riding this year. When Astana exploited Contador's puncture pre-Mortirolo, he openly admitted it. Then yesterday he said this: "I think he (Contador) saw the opportunity to make me suffer and he took it, and I've lost a minute and a half. He took advantage the same way that I did on the Mortirolo. Certainly they were angry about what had happened the other day and they took advantage of the situation. Things like that happen. The race is the race, and he took his opportunity. Our objective is the keep these two positions on the podium and try to win another stage."


For all their high cadence pace setting, Astana's control of the pack has seen Visconti's lead creep up to three minutes.


Dario Cataldo leads the Astana train up this climb - they're all there, including Mikel Landa and the white jersey Fabio Aru. They've dropped back to 2:45 on lone leader Visconti. Contador rides in the wheel of Tinkoff-Saxo team-mate Mick Rogers, with Roman Kreuziger just in front. Meanwhile, Kochetkov has had a dig to drop Kiryienka.


Visconti has 18 seconds over Kiryienka, who gathered his forces, and Kochetkov. The peloton are at 2:30.


The leaders are now on the Cat.1 Col de St. Pantaléon (16.5km at 7.2%). Almost instantaneously Visconti kicks clear. Chaves has popped, Kiryienka is struggling and Kochetkov and Rutkiewicz are doing their best to fight back on.


That chasing group of Intxausti, Kruijswijk and Van der Lijke has been swept up by the pack now, so we have just five riders out ahead: Visconti, Kochetkov, Kiryienka, Chaves and Rutkiewicz. They have 2:15 with two more climbs to go.


You sense that this race will blow apart on the next climb: Astana have been setting an infernal pace in the peloton, the average speed for the first three hours has been brutal, and the fallout will be huge when the torch paper it finally lit.


Astana front the pack on this descent, trailing the five leaders by 2:25. The three chasers are 25 seconds ahead of the pack so will be caught quite soon.


Confirmation that Intxausti pipped Kruijswijk to the summit and so he has taken back the virtual lead of the KOM blue jersey competition.


Rutkiewicz not only caught the leaders, he passed them, on this descent. He's back with them now, though.


We're on the descent now and Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) has joined the four leaders. Further back, Kruijswijk and Intxausti have caught Van der Lijke.


Back with the pack, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) has attacked in pursuit of the remaining KOM points. The blue jersey is followed by Benat Intxausti, for whom a single point would put him back in the virtual blue jersey.


The four leaders are approaching the summit of this first of three Cat.1 climbs that act as the icing on this stage's cake. And yes, it's Giovanni Visconti who takes the points that put him firmly back in the hunt for the blue jersey, while keeping team-mate Intxausti's own blue dream very much alive.


So close yet so far: although Rutkiewicz had the leaders in his sights, he's now 55 seconds down on the quartet up the road. He's 35 seconds ahead of Van der Lijke, who leads the peloton by two minutes. The summit is coming right up - and Visconti will no doubt go for those KOM points. That would put him firmly in the mix for the blue jersey.


Yes, Betancur has been caught by the peloton now. In fact, Ulissi and Montaguri will soon follow. The four leaders - Visconti, Kochetkov, Kiryienka and Chaves - have 20 seconds over lone chaser Rutkiewicz, who himself leads Van der Lijke by 40 seconds.


The gap is fairly stable for now, with the peloton still riding at around 3:40 on the four leaders. Betancur is now closer to the pack than he is the front of the race. He'd clearly targeted some KOM points today - and took maximum points over the earlier Cat.3 climb - but the Ag2R-La Mondiale rider doesn't seem to have his climb legs today.


Betancur has really cracked - he's almost two minutes back and will be the first escapee to be swept up by the peloton. Ahead of him there's Montaguti, Ulissi and Van der Lijke, then Rutkiewicz riding solo in pursuit of the others, who have caught Visconti.


And then there was one: Giovanni Visconti rides clear of his three fellow escapees. He's opened up a small gap over Chaves, Kochetkov and Kiryienka. The Italian won two stages in the 2013 Giro and has had a solid if unspectacular race so far.


The pack trail the leaders by 3:25 as they start this climb proper. Kochetkov and Kiryienka have joined Visconti and Chaves on the front, while Betancur, Rutkiewicz and Van de Lijk follow 10 seconds down. Montaguti and Ulissi are another 10 seconds further back.


Betancur is back with the other escapees but two riders have broken clear - Visconti and Chaves. The latter is perhaps the strongest climber in this break - on his day - and so he may be dreaming of a maiden Grand Tour win today.


Carlos Betancur (Ag2R-La Mondiale) appears to have been dropped by the leading group. Either the Colombian doesn't have the legs or he's had a mechanical. Back with the pack, Astana are still driving the pace onto the lower slopes of the climb - with Tinkff-Saxo able to hitch a ride with their man in pink, Alberto Contador.


We're onto Cat.1 climb to Saint Barthélemy - it's a narrow road that climbs above the Aosta valley for 16.5km at 6.7%, with 10% ramps near the start and a few plateaux on the way up. Someone in this break will use it as a springboard for an attack.


It's pretty much show time!


The climb is coming right up... the perfect time to remind you of the nine men out ahead: Carlos Betancur and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r), Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Peval Kochetkov (Katusha), Nick Van der Lijke (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky).


Earlier in the stage, Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani CSF) retired from the race. The Italian 25-year-old won stages in both 2013 and 2014 but he's struggled for form in this year's Giro.


We're into the final 100km of today's stage but all the flashpoints are still on the horizon. The first of those three climbs comes in about 10km - and from there, it will be mayhem. With Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo drilling the tempo on the front of the pack, the gap has come down to four minutes for the escapees. It's enough for one climb, for sure, but they will struggle to stay out ahead for the next two - unless we see a move on the Cat.1 Saint-Barthélemy.


You wouldn't bet against Astana winning this stage - through Mikel Landa, in all likelihood. Although Alberto Contador, the maglia rosa, is still without a stage win on this year's race. In fact, although a previous Giro d'Italia winner in 2008, Contador has never officially won a Giro stage in his career. He won twice in 2011 but they were taken away for him following his subsequent ban for Clenbuterol. Could today be the day?


The gap is 4:40 for the nine leaders. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) is the best placed of all the escapees, currently 14th on GC but a whopping 21:25 down on Contador.


Astana are pushing hard on the peloton - something we haven't seen for a few days following the fading of their man Fabio Aru. The Kazakh team had a shocker yesterday when Landa was held up by a crash and had to chase back on after Contador attacked on Monte Ologno. Landa himself conceded yesterday that the Giro was over in terms of the maglia rosa, but underlined Astana's determination to win another stage and protect Aru and his podium positions.


That climb is followed quite quickly by the feed zone at Settimo Vittone. The riders are now in the Val d'Aosta ahead of those three final climbs - Col de St. Barthélemy (20km at 5.6%), the Col de St. Pantaléon (16.5km at 7.2%) and mountaintop finish at Cervinia (19km at 5%).


No surprises there: Betancur crests the summit in pole position. So far, so good for the Colombian. It will be interesting to see if the likes of Van der Lijke and Visconti try and spoil Betancur's designs on the blue jersey to protect the interests of the respective team-mates Kruijswijk and Intxausti. In fact, Visconti himself is sixth in the KOM standings, 17 points behind Betancur, so a good ride today could even see the Spaniard move up...


The first climb today is the small matter of the Cat.3 Croce Serra, on which the break has managed to increase their gap to just over four minutes.


With 112 points up for grabs in today's king of the mountains competition, it's easy to see the motivation for at least one rider in this break. Carlos Betancur is currently fourth in the battle for the blue jersey, which is currently being worn by Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo). The Dutchman has 92 points - one ahead of Spain's Benat Intxausti (Movistar). Double stage winner Mikel Landa (Astana) is on 73 points, while Betancur is on 68 points. A good ride today could put the Colombian in the blue jersey...


The nine men in the break are: Carlos Betancur and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r), Marek Rutkiewicz (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Peval Kochetkov (Katusha), Nick Van der Lijke (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky). They soon had three minutes over the peloton.


The average speed for the first hour of racing today was just over 50kmph - that's very, very fast considering this is the end of the third week of a particularly brutal race on the second longest stage that concludes with three feindist ascents... A break of nine riders formed after 30km of racing. Details coming up.


A reminder that Contador leads this race quite comfortably by 5:15 over Landa with Fabio Aru, the white jersey, in third a further 50 seconds back. Andrey Amador - a winner in today's finish town of Cervinia three years ago (on the day Ryder Hesjedal took the pink jersey off the shoulders of Joaquim Rodriguez) - is in fourth place at 7:01, while Russia's Yuri Trofimov (Katusha) completes the top five at 9:40.


Yesterday's stage was won by Philippe Gilbert from the break - but the big story was Alberto Contador, the maglia rosa, getting his own back on Astana and attacking on Monte Ologno just after rival Mikel Landa had been held up in the pile up that did for Broeckx. You can read all about a frantic stage 18 in the report below...


Two withdrawals yesterday after separate incidents ahead of the final climb of Monte Ologno: Stig Broeckx (Lotto Soudal) and Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar).


It's the second longest stage of the race today and so it was an early start for the remaining 165 riders. It's a sunny day with a few clouds in the sky.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia - the first of two concluding back-to-back Alpine slogs that will finally decide the top ten of this year's race. It's a long 236km ride from Gravellona Toce to Cervinia that features three Cat.1 climbs in a brutish final third. Expect fireworks galore...