Richard Carapaz was on the brink of winning the Giro d’Italia on Saturday after he retained the overall leader’s pink jersey in the penultimate stage in the Dolomites.
The Ecuadorian comfortably held off two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali in the 194km ride from Feltre as the 20th stage was won by Spaniard Pello Bilbao.
It was a chaotic ride throughout, with Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez, who holds the white jersey for the best under-25 rider, lashing out at a fan after tangling with him in the final few kilometers.
The Team Astana rider could face an exclusion from the race, which was to end in Verona yesterday with a 17km individual time trial.
Lopez was one of the attackers of the day, but the top guns held firm, with the exception of Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who was dropped in the final climb up to Monte Avena.
As a result, the Team Jumbo-Visma rider slipped from third to fourth overall to the benefit of Spain’s Mikel Landa, Carapaz’s lieutenant at Team Movistar.
Overall, Carapaz leads Nibali by 1 minute, 54 seconds and Landa by 2:53, with Roglic 3:16 off the pace after being handed a 10-second penalty for accepting a push from a spectator.
Sensing Roglic’s weakness and trying to make the most of his last chance for unsettling Carapaz, Nibali, one of two active riders with titles in all three grand tours, gave everything in the last 4km.
However, the duo of Carapaz and Landa proved too difficult to shake off, while Bilbao sprinted to victory on the day ahead of Landa.
“We’ve tried to win the stage with Mikel Landa as well as myself to retain the Maglia Rosa, but we’ve missed out by very little,” Carapaz said. “However, we’re happy with how it went today. I believe 1:54 over Nibali is enough, although anything can happen in a final time trial.”
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