An early break of 7 riders managed about 7 minutes, but the race report really begins on the 2nd big climb of the day, the Mortirolo. The Trevigno had thinned the herd, but the Mortirolo was where the real bloodletting began.
On the Mortirolo, the fuse was lit. Garzelli had gone up the road alone, but didn’t have a ton of separation from the riders behind. Liquigas thought this was the place to put their threshing machine on the front and so they driled the pace,with Smyzd setting an absolutely wicked tempo, which shed riders quickly – most notably the pink jersey of David Arroyo. Then Sastre. The other Liquigas riders burned themselves out and seemingly all at once we had the same familiar faces at the front. Basso, Scarponi, Vino, and Evans.
Up front, Garzelli was making the most of his attack, but he wasn’t likely to be given enough leash to dent his overall deficit in the GC.
Basso, Scarponi and Nibali were the last 3 standing, as first Vino and then Evans slid out the back of the dwindling group. Evans lurched back and forth over his handlebars, his twisted face was a stark contrast to three up front, who looked as though they were reading the newspaper. The average 10%, 13km long climb was favoring the Italians.
Arroyo was riding within himself, trying to stay as fresh as possible to hopefully limit his losses but it didn’t look to good for the Spaniard. He was without his faithful teammate Uran, who had helped pace the Maglia Rosa at the first signs of trouble on the climb.
At 38km to go, Evans caught up to Carlos Sastre. Perhaps the two of them could recover enough to make up some of the deficit before the end. From the top of the Mortirolo climb it was roughly 35km to the finish, which also held the deceivingly tough Aprica climb. Today was a difficult day, with over 4000 meters of total climb. And maybe some of the dropped were hoping tomorrow may exact revenge on the gamblers today as it had even more – over 6300 meters. Two scoops of pain, please.
Evans lost contact now as Sastre had found Vino and Gadret, and shortly thereafter Evans’ pedal stroked shortened up and contact was lost. Cadel was clearly having a tough day. But ever the professional he recovered and clawed his way back up to the three who had just left him.
Nearer the summit, the time check had come back, and Basso had now hung 1’46″ on Arroyo, and had passed Garzelli, ending his sojourn off the front. The Maglia Rosa was in clear and present danger of changing hands at the end of the day. Nibali and Scarponi hung on as well all three still looking comfortable.
Vino made a dig to get rid of Sastre and Gadret and bridge up to the leaders, while up front a man in a chef outfit jogged alongside the ticking Basso. Evans hung just a few seconds behind Sastre. Maybe some of the guys in trouble were hoping they could make up some time on Basso, admittedly not the best descender in the group.
The crowds were much thicker at the top of the Mortirolo, and the home fans were loving seeing three Italians motoring along. Arroyo made the summit just after Evans, ceding only 1:55 at the top – certainly manageable. He then began hurtling down the hill in a bid to save pink, and gapped Evans a bit.
Nibali, Basso, and Scarponi let it all hang out there, with some wheels slipping here and there in the sopping wet conditions. Vino hung in no man’s land, trying to get up to the lead 3. Behind them Sastre and Gadret, then a few seconds back Arroyo leading Evans down the hill, about 1:30.
Evans almost side swiped a parked car after having both wheels slip on him. That had to rattle his cage something fierce. Arroyo meanwhile was just flying down the hill and he caught and passed Sastre and Gadret. Sastre did a double take as the pink jersey went by him on his right around a slight bend. Towards the bottom the roads looked to bee drying quickly.
Arroyo’s ride was heroic as he closed on Vino and had taken back a minute on the Basso group. There were still a little over 20km to go, Arroyo might have done enough to hold on to pink. He had to be thinking that as he began to gap Vino, and had pulled back 1’10″ on Basso! Amazing descent, reminiscent of “il Falco” Savoldelli.
Hitting the bottom of the descent, Arroyo checked his shoulder and thought it best to wait for Vino. Not far behind, Evans, Gadret and Sastre finished the descent as well and began working together.
Arroyo and Vino exchanged some words, maybe positing if they should wait for the 3 behind. By 15km the gap had shortened from two minutes to forty one seconds! They weren’t waiting, and they didn’t need to as Evans, Sastre and Gadret joined Vino and Arroyo, making it a quintent behind a trio as the Aprica began.
Up front Scarponi refused to help, leaving the two Liquigas riders to do all the work. It looked as though even the sun was trying to poke out on the riders.
While the first two climbs were super tough, the Aprica was no picnic, as it was very steep in the lower section. Basso went to work, and began extending the gap again, second by second. Now Nibali took a turn at the front turning the screws and giving Basso a bit of a breather.
The 5 behind were taking stabs at different tempos, but overall looked a bit herky jerky. Ahead, Scarponi shocked the lead group by coming through for a pull. 10k to go to the finish, and with a minute over the pink jersey group, perhaps he thought it was time to help the effort and maybe take a shot at the stage win.
The gap now crept up over 1’30”. Arroyo tried to rally those with him, but only Evans seemed willing to take some quality pulls. Vino kept taking what looked like probing attacks for pulls. Certainly toying with the rhythm was not helpful to the quintet’s chances of making up time on the Italian trio up front. Finally with 5km to go it seems the 5 chasers started working together a little more smoothly, but the damage seemed done as the gap went up to 1’50”. Make that 2’23” by 4km.
Arroyo, despite his heroic efforts, had lost the pink jersey on the road, but he didn’t go down without a fight. He had done the Maglia Rosa proud.
Under the red kite the leading trio finally looked around and began the play for the stage win. Nibali lead, with Scaponi second wheel, and Basso lurking in third. Nibali kept the pace high. Basso probably wanted the 20 second time bonus, but he came through to pull so maybe he would be OK with the 12 second bonus as well.
Basso just drove the pace as hard as he could and then Scarponi made his move with 100 meters or so and took the stage win somewhat easily. The Liquigas duo slipped in 2nd and 3rd after having had completely crushed the race. A few second time bonus with second place for Basso would be enough to wrestle the pink jersey away from David Arroyo, who dragged his group up over 2 minutes behind, only to be jumped at the line, with Vino taking 4th and the “bunch” sprint.
Stage 19 Results
1 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 5:27:04
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
4 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0:03:05
5 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:03:06
7 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
8 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
General Classification After 19 Stages
1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 81:55:56
2 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0:00:51
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:02:30
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli 0:02:49
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:04:00
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:05:32
7 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank 0:06:00
8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0:06:02