Colombian Esteban Chaves moved close to his maiden grand tour title in the Giro d’Italia when he snatched the overall leader’s pink jersey off Steven Kruijswijk’s shoulders after the Dutchman crashed on the 19th stage won solo by Vincenzo Nibali on Friday.
Orica-GreenEdge rider Chaves, fifth in the Vuelta last year, took third place behind former champion Nibali and Spain’s Mikel Nieve in the French resort town of Risoul, putting himself in prime position to become the second Colombian to win the race after Nairo Quintana in 2014.
He leads Nibali by 44 seconds and Kruijswijk by 1 minute, 5 seconds with one competitive stage left before today’s flat ride to Torino. Yesterday’s Stage 20 was a 134km mountain trek from Guillestre to Sant’Anna di Vinnadio.
“Until now I was attacking, now I will defend,” Chaves said. “I will leave my skin on the road.”
Kruijswijk literally left skin on the road when he crashed in the rapid descent from the Colle dell’Agnello.
Kruijswijk started the 162km stage with a three-minute lead over Chaves, but ploughed into a snow bank while descending the Colle dell’Agnello, the highest point of this year’s Giro.
LottoNL-Jumbo rider Kruijswijk, who needed to change bikes after crashing, was clearly struggling on the final climb and finished 4:54 behind Nibali.
Kruijswijk was not the only rider who fell victim to the Colle dell’Agnello on Friday. Minutes after his crash, footage emerged of Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin, who was fifth on the GC before the stage began, lying in a heap on the side of the road.
The Russian’s race ended when he was taken to hospital in Brancon with a broken collarbone and shoulder blade and was expected to remain there overnight for observation.
An emotional Nibali, the home favorite, burst into tears after his first Giro stage win of this year’s race, which put him back into contention for a second title.
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