Giro D'Italia stage 19: Hats off to Arroyo but Basso's in the pink
Arroyo goes all Spartacus on the Mortirolo descent but it's not enough to keep the lead
It was another tough day in the mountains for the Giro peloton. Two cat 1 climbs (including the mighty Mortirolo) and an uphill finish to Aprica promised plenty of attacking riding and it duly delivered, with a fantastic fighting performance by David Arroyo that included a fearsome descent of the Mortirolo as he fought to gain back time. In the end though it was a day for Liquigas as Basso and Nibali finished behind Vincenzo Nibali, Basso pulling on a pink jersey won on the Mortirolo climb as Arroyo finished over three minutes down.
An early break went out with 150km to go, and with 22nd placed Tondo (Cervelo) the leading man at half an hour back in the GC they were allowed to escape. The nine quickly worked up a decent lead before they lost a chunk of time help up at a level crossing. The group started to fall apart on the slopes of the Trivigno (11km at 7.6%) though and Stefano Garzelli jumped off the front of the peloton at the foot of the climb, quickly building up a big advantage over the main pack and catching the struggling Tondo before the summit.
Garzelli passed the rest of the group on the descent and the early slopes of the Mortirolo (12.8km at 10%) to lead the stage as the road headed upwards on the hardest climb of the day. Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo), teammate Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli) were soon off the front too, and a second group containing Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), Branislau Samoilau (Quick Step) and Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) swept off after them.
Basso's group caught Garzelli with half the climb still to run. The Acqua e Sapone rider found the pace too hot as Basso piled the hurt on Nibali and Scarponi as the race ascended into the mist. Further down the slopes Cadel Evans was using every ounce of his considerable strength to stay with Vinokourov's group. The elastic held until about 4km from the top, when Vino went one way and Evans started to go the other, slipping back from Sastre.
With the rain starting to fall the descent there was opportunity for the risk takers to gain some time and it was David Arroyo who took advantage, gaining plenty of time as Evans nearly plastered himself over the back of a parked camper van. With Basso descending cautiously and Nibali waiting for his team leader, Arroyo closed the gap to just 39 seconds, towing Vinokourov with him, and Evans, Sastre and Gadret also made up time to bring all the main GC contenders to within a minute of one another; by the bottom of the time they'd caught Arroyo and Vinokourov to make it five versus three on the final slog.
The three were strong though, and Basso, Nibali and Scarponi put the hammer down on the fairly gentle final climb to eat away at Arroyo's hold on the Maglia Rosa and with 3km to go the jersey changed hands on the road, Basso taking over as GC leader and Scarponi taking the line ahead of the Liquigas duo.