MONTE AVENA, Italy (Reuters) - Richard Carapaz was on the brink of winning the Giro d’Italia after he retained the overall leader’s pink jersey in Saturday’s penultimate stage in the Dolomites.
The Ecuadorian comfortably held off two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali in the 194-km 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 kilometres.
The Astana rider could face an exclusion from the race, which ends in Verona with a 17-km individual time trial on Sunday.
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 Jumbo-Visma rider slipped from third to fourth overall to the benefit of Spain’s Mikel Landa, Carapaz’s lieutenant at Movistar.
Overall, Carapaz leads Nibali by 1:54 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 of unsettling Carapaz, Nibali, one of two active riders with titles in all three grand tours, gave everything in the last four kilometres.
But the duo of Carapaz and Landa proved too hard 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,” said Carapaz.
“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.”
Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Pritha Sarkar