2012 Giro; Stage 19 report- Ryder riding into history!
Stage 19 played out largely as expected; brutally. A brave, yet ultimately suicidal break got away and built the usual large lead before slowly falling apart as the final climbs approached.
The pace setting and heavy lifting was largely done by Liquigas, as they protected Basso and tried to set him up to assert himself, or at least not succumb to his rivals. Basso looked confident and comfortable all day, but as the end drew near, things heated up significantly…
Up the road, on the final passage of the unforgiving Pampeago, the break was falling apart. With about 25km to go to the finish, Roman Kreuziger launched a fierce attack in an attempt to salvage his Giro. Kreuziger had been on nearly all GC contender lists- including mine- but continually slid further down the GC column. Either out of pride or orders from the team car, Kreuziger flew up the climb and picked off the stragglers of the day’s break one by one. As the summit of the climb neared, he began to fade under the pressure of the chase to reel him in… and there’s the back story…
The chase to catch Kreuziger, was none other than Ryder Hesjedal as he decimated the final pack of GC contenders. Along the way up the final climb, Scarponi had attacked a number of times in an attempt to finally shed Hesjedal… to no avail, and his own ultimate undoing. Scarponi always goes down swinging… so you can expect more tomorrow, but today was not his day. Eventually, Hesjedal was screaming through the dropped break as Kreuziger began to falter, mashing heavily on his pedals in hopes of reaching the finish line before being caught.
Kreuziger ultimately managed to survive, saving his pride and gaining the stage win. 19 seconds later, Hesjedal blasted across the line as he worked ruthlessly to put as much distance between himself and the others at the finish. Another 13 seconds later, a visibly blown Rodriguez crossed the line trying to retain his maglia rosa. Scarponi was another 3 seconds behind, and Basso finished 55 seconds after Kreuziger… 36 behind Hesjedal.
The impressive Canadian finds himself firmly in the driver’s seat of the Giro; if he shows any of the same strength he has shown during the previous days, he is nearly assured of the win by day’s end in Milan. The far superior TT rider to Rodriguez, with the gap he has over Basso, he would be very hard for Basso to catch and Rodgriguez would have to have the ride of his life to lose less than a minute to Hesjedal. Hesjedal now sits just 17 seconds behind Rodriguez… with Scarponi sitting in 3rd and 1:22 behind Hesjedal.
Tomorrow will be the virtual final chance for the remaining GC contenders to rid themselves of Hesjedal, or at least put him into real difficulty before the final TT on Sunday. Tomorrow’s stage should be full of incredible fireworks… unless the others have succumbed to what they feel is inevitable. Hesjedal looks set to become the first-ever Canadian winner of the Giro… and a very worthy one at that… if he can survive tomorrow intact.
As they say in my home state of Alabama; it’s gonna be a humdinger!