Vendrame breaks away to win Giro stage 19, as Pogacar cruises

Andrea Vendrame recovering after his victory (Marco Alpozzi)
Andrea Vendrame recovering after his victory (Marco Alpozzi)

Andrea Vendrame won the 19th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Friday after slipping away from the other survivors of a long breakaway on a hilly 157 kilometre run from Mortegliano to Sappada.

"It's a nice day today," said the Italian who also won a stage in 2021.

Vendrame, who rides for Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale, crossed the line 54 seconds ahead of Pelayo Sanchez with Georg Steinhauser third, another 13 seconds behind.

"What an amazing victory from Vendrame," said Steinhauser, a 22-year-old German who has already won a stage on his Giro debut. "It was a crazy ride. We were pulling full gas. He stayed all the way on the front alone. Congrats to him. Chapeau."

The peloton, headed by runaway leader Tadej Pogacar led in by two UAE team-mates, crossed the line 15 minutes and 56 seconds back.

"We were really conservative with the team. Nobody spent too much energy," Pogacar told Eurosport, suggesting that he had been looking ahead to Saturday's mountainous penultimate stage. "Tomorrow is the last day of the Giro for us climbers."

Geraint Thomas, who is third in the overall standings, benefited from the sportsmanship of his rivals after he fell, looking over his shoulder, 6km from the finish as the peloton meandered into the final climb.

The group of leaders waited for the Welsh Ineos rider to run back to the team car and collect a spare bike.

"Shows everyone has respect to everyone," said Pogacar. "In this group, nobody wanted to pass Thomas in that way. I hope he's OK after the crash, it's unfortunate... this stupid moment at the end. Hope we can have a great show tomorrow."

Saturday's mountainous 184km run south from Alpago to Bassano del Grappa gives Pogacar's rivals one last chance to attack him before the race ends Sunday with a flat circuit starting and ending in Rome.

But Pogacar repeated that he hopes to collect a sixth stage victory in this year's race.

"The best thing is to arrive solo," he said at Friday's finish. "But you never know. Maybe tomorrow someone will be stronger than me."

Friday's stage ended barely 100km from the Slovenian border where many of Pogacar's countrymen awaited the likely overall winner, waving national flags. He said he was looking to the same support on Saturday.

"Going to be a lot of Slovenian flags," he said. "Today was nice to see everyone."

- 'Good move' -

Vendrame was part of a long breakaway as the riders skirted the high mountains through Friuli, in the far north-east corner of Italy.

For a while the escapees struggled to pull away, but when the peloton, nearing the end of a long Giro, raced a record average speed and often in bad weather, lost their enthusiasm for the chase, the lead burgeoned.

Julian Alaphilippe shattered the 19-man breakaway with an attack on a steep climb with 60km to go, but Vendrame made the decisive move as he escaped on a descent with 30km left and built a lead of a minute heading into the final climb.

"I tried to get away on the descent, and it was a good move because they didn't really agree too much behind," said Vendrame. "I thought that somebody was going to come back, but I tried to keep a good, regular rhythm."