Roman Kreuziger won the 19th stage of the Giro d'Italia yesterday, while Joaquim Rodriguez had his overall race lead slashed to just 17 seconds by Ryder Hesjedal.
With a superb final climb, Kreuziger, one of the pre-race favourites, finished the penultimate mountain leg of the Giro in six hours, 18 minutes and two seconds. Hesjedal crossed 19 seconds behind him. It was one of the toughest stages in this year's race, with five categorised climbs along the 123-mile route from Treviso to Val di Fiemme, including two ascents up the daunting Passo Pampeago and a third category one climb.
Today's 20th stage is another difficult test, with a 136-mile trek from Caldes culminating in a 14-mile ascent up the Passo dello Stelvio, which has an average gradient of 12 per cent. The Giro finishes tomorrow with a 18.7 mile time trial which is likely to favour Hesjedal among the leading riders.
Mark Cavendish, of Team Sky, remains in the lead in the points standings, with a 13-point lead over Rodriguez, although the Briton is unlikely to add to his tally on either of the remaining stages. Having won the Tour de France's points title last year and the same category in the Vuelta a Espana in 2010, Cavendish is hoping to complete his set of grand tour titles by securing the maglia rosso.