28/05/16 - 11:45
Guillestre - Santa Anna di Vinadio
Giro d'Italia • Stage20

Guillestre - Santa Anna di Vinadio

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Here he is - Vincenzo NIbali, your 2016 Giro d'Italia champion... as long as the curse of the maglia rosa doesn't carry onto the streets of Turin tomorrow!


Confirmation that Nibali now leads Chaves by 52 seconds on GC, with Valverde up to third place at 1:17. Poor Steven Kruijswijk drops off the podium despite going into the final two mountain stages with a three-minute advantage, and almost five minutes over the eventual winner...


But this was the moment Vincenzo Nibali all but won the 2016 Giro d'Italia...


Here was the stage winner today as Rein Taaramae crossed the line...


Lovely scenes at the finish as NIbali hugs the parents of Estaben Chaves, who in turn congratulate the Italian national champion on his victory.


And Chaves crosses the line with Scarponi by his side - the Italian veteran punching the air. A telling scene: Scaponi was the difference over the last two days...


Kruijswijk the line a few metres ahead of Chaves...


Valverde crosses the line 10 seconds later ahead of Uran - the Spaniard should be on the podium now instead of Kruijswijk...


Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) crosses the line with a roar. Let's start the clock...


Last 500m for the Shark of Messina. He has to ride for every metre because it's still not a given.


Last kilometre for Nibali, who can't take his foot off the gas - he has to be sure of this and he will keep it going to the very end. He's got Valverde and Uran in pursuit so the gaps may not be as big as we thought...


Back with Nibali, and the gap is now more than one minute we're hearing. Chaves and Kruijswijk lead the chase, but it's going to be too late. The fans are going crazy here!


Third place for Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale) at 1:13.


Darwin Atapuma (BMC) crosses the line for second place at 1:03.


Back with Nibali, he's onto the final climb and has 2km to go between him and the magia rosa. Baring a mechanical, he will win this Giro today.


Victory for Rein Taaramae of Katusha!


A smile for Taaramae as the road levels out and he knows the win is his...


Nibali, meanwhile, is giving it his all but not taking too many risks on this twisting, narrow descent - he doesn't want to lose it a la Kruijswijk.


Taaramae is on the steepest 11% section of this final ramp to the line, within touching distance of the win.


Under the flamme rouge for Rein Taaramae, who looks set to win this stage for Katusha.


With the big guns, this is really an amazingly scenic descent back into Italy from the French side of the Alps. How symbolic for Nibali to take hold of the maglia rosa here in all of places.


Taaramae is still leading this stage, with Atapuma in pursuit. They're on the final Cat.3 climb to the finish, which peaks out at 11%.


Nibali is the virtual maglia rosa! The gap over the top is 55 seconds. He needs 44.


Nibali goes over the summit, where Gianluca Brambilla is waiting for his Etixx team-mate Bob Jungels - who has now caught Chaves along with Kruijswijk. The kilometre counts is deceiving because it's taken from the leader on the road, in this case Taaramae. Although we don't know if he's still leading because we haven't seen him - or the other escapees - for ages. Understandably.


Chaves can't even hold the wheel of Uran, who pulls clear with Valverde. Chaves has cracked!


Kangert has popped and so Nibali is on his own - but he's 30 seconds clear and has the descent and the final climb to make up the time.


Remember - Nibali needs to beat Chaves by more than 44 seconds is he wants to win this Giro d'Italia. We have no time gaps yet - but we will going over the top of the climb shortly.


Here comes the cavalry! Rigoberto Uran - Chaves's countryman and friend - has returned to lend his fellow Colombian a hand. He needed that.


Meanwhile, Taaramae goes over the summit in pole position.


But the gap's coming down! Valverde and Chaves are closing in on Nibali, but the Italian has now been picked up by Kangert...


Nibali passes through the ski resort of Isola 500 and he has about 20 seconds on Chaves and Valverde now! And remember, there is a very Nibalish descent coming up...


Now Valverde attacks, forcing Chaves to reply. The Spaniard not doing Nibali any favours there because they've cut the lead.


NIBALI IS RIDING CLEAR! The Shark opens up a gap on Chaves and Valverde... and he has Kangert further up the road.


Scarponi's done and Nibali attacks! Chaves and Valverde follow, but Kruijswijk can't.


Taaramae is within 3km of the summit now and has 8:20 over the maglia rosa group, with three riders in pursuit.


Rein Taaramae now rides clear for Katusha - he's trying to save the Russian team's Giro after the loss of Zakarin yesterday. Kangert is soft-pedalling - Astana clearly have a plan and he's quite integral in it.


Taaramae returns to the leaders and then attacks. It comes to nothing. Kangert has clearly eased off - no doubt aware that he may be needed behind, where his team-mates Scarponi and Nibali are setting the tempo in the select 8-man group of race favourites.


Attack from Dombrowski in the break - taking Atapuma and Visconti with him, and shedding the two Estonians in Taaramae and Kangert.


Chaves looks in pain as he hugs Nibali's back wheel. This really is a stellar group: Scarponi, Nibali, Chaves, Valverde, Jungels, Kruijswijk, Uran and Majka. No Zakarin - he crashed out yesterday. They trail the five leaders - Taaramae, Dombrowski, Visconti, Kangert and Atapuma - bu 9:20.


SCARPONI ATTACKS: He acts as a bridging point for Nibali, who joins him with Chaves on his wheel. Kruijswijk, Valverde and Jungels follow soon after. Majka and Uran too. It's show time.


Fuglsang has done, now it's time for Scarponi to set the tempo. Remember that the Italian veteran was leading the race over the Colle dell'Agnello yesterday before being called back to pace Nibali following Kuijswijk's crash. The tactic worked: Scarponi helped stretch the gap on the flat before Nibali went on to win the stage and move into second on GC. Can Scarpo now be instrumental in his leader's crowning?


Taaramae and Kangert make the connection so we have five riders now leading this stage, with the maglia rosa group - which contains just 14 riders now - riding 10 minutes in arrears.


The three leaders are about to be joined by three other riders from the break - Taaramae, Kangert and Nieve. Atapuma sees them coming and so ups the tempo - and it's too much for Nieve, who's dropped by Taaramae and Kangert.


Finally Astana come to the front through Fuglsang and Scarponi. Majka is just behind and ahead of Kruijswijk, Nibali and Valverde... Chaves, in pink, near the front too.


A reminder of what the riders are tackling at the moment... and it's still Tinkoff's Manuele Boaro who sets the tempo on the front of the pack for Majka. The gap is still 10:15 for the three leaders, so they're making no in-roads. Lone chaser Pirazzi is 30 seconds ahead of the pack - again, not sure what he thinks he'll get out of this attack.


Tinkoff are setting a fast tempo on the front of this pack, paving the way for Majka - but they've left it too late for the stage win, surely. The three leaders still have 9:35 to play with. Astana are there with Tinkoff, and then we have Kruijswijk, Chaves, Nibali, Majka and Valvarde. All the remaining big guns.


Stefano Pirazzi is on the front of teh pack for Bardiani - but it seems a bit fruitless. He's too late for the stage win, and he's no factor in any other competition.


He's back: Visconti joins Dombrowski and Atapuma in the lead. Meanwhile, the peloton passes under the 30-to-go banner and the pace has been increased, resulting in riders being tailed off one by one.


Visconti is closing in on the two leaders, while further back the pace is picking up ahea do this climb for the race favourites. Orica have one man on the front, but you sense that the initiative will come from Astana through Scarponi and Fuglsang for Nibali, who trails Chaves by 44 seconds in the overall standings.


Atapuma joins Dombrowski on the front, while Visconti is not far behind. The main pack still rolls along at 10:25 - but we can expect a lot of movement once they get on this climb, because it's now or never for some of the riders who want to win the maglia rosa.


Attack by Joe Dombrowski! The American dances clear of his fellow escapees - Visconti thinks about chasing it down, but has second thoughts.


After all that effort fighting back, Brambilla has been dropped right at the start of this climb. Nieve looks to be in some trouble too...


Giovanni Visconti rolls through the second intermediate sprint at Isola in pole position ahead of Kangert and Dombrowski - and that's the start of the next climb, the Cat.1 Colle della Lombarda (19.8km at 7.5% with a maximum gradient of 12% and rising to 2350m). And it's a climb making it's debut appearance in the Giro...


Chapeau, Gianluca Brambilla! The italian is back with the leading group after dropping Stefan Denifl on the descent and fighting for his place. Their gap is 9:15 over the main pack, so one of these chaps should win today's stage.


Valverde whips the newspaper out from under his jersey, pauses, isn't sure what to do with it, then starts reading it jokingly, before the inevitable: throwing it on the side of the road. The Movistar man may be fined for that flagrent piece of littering... but at least shows he has a sense of humour.


Gianluca Brambilla is burying himself to join the seven leaders - the Italian has ridden to just 30 seconds in arrears. He's has a great Giro, it must be said: a stage win, two days in pink, a large hand in one team-mate's win (Trentin) and another's run in pink (Jungels).


Steven Kruijswijk has two LottoNL-Jumbo team-mates with him - team-mates who he really could have done with yesterday. It's all going to come down to the two last climbs on this race, the second of which is only a short Cat.3 climb, but it's a steep one.


The chasers have caught Nieve so we have seven riders out ahead: Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale), Mikel Nieve (Team Sky), Rein Taaramae (Katusha), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Tanel Kangert (Astana). They have a couple of minutes over Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) and Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling) and 6:20 over Aleksey Rybalkin (Gazprom-RusVelo) and 8:45 over the pack of main favourites.


Diego Ulissi - who was in the break - has been caught and passed by the big GC riders on this descent. And still, Nieve is yet to be caught by the chasers. He has 25 seconds, with the pack at nine minutes now.


And make no mistake - it's a big test for Kruijswijk: there's more or less 40km of descending from the top of the Bonette to the foot of the Colle della Lombarda, with the last 10km a false flat following a small kick up.


The pack is strung out on this descent with Valverde and Majka on the front, Chaves and Nibali just behind and Kruijswijk not far behind. It's a big test of his courage and resolve for the Dutchman after that crash on the descent of the Agnello yesterday.


The pack of the main favourites pick up water bottles from their soigneurs ahead of the summit - they're about to start this long descent, and it's show time. Kruijswijk is still there - despite his injuries from yesterday - which underlines once again that he's the strongest rider on this Giro, but was made to suffer from one lapse in concentration.


Nieve taking no risks on this descent. He's still 50 seconds ahead but he's not too bothered about the prospect of being joined by the other escapees.


Nieve looks like he's sat up and is waiting for his fellow escapees on the descent. Job well done for the Team Sky climber - now time to conserve some energy ahead of the finale. He could, after all, win a second stage in this race.


Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) crests the summit and he is now the virtual maglia azzura - with 145 points to Cunego's 134. The Italian can still mathmatically do it - but it's not likely because he's been dropped by the main pack...


Of course, it's entirely apt that Nieve should be leading the race over this snow-clad summit of the Col de Bonette - his name translates as 'snow' from the Spanish. He has 1:15 over the chasers, who are prepping their gilets ahead of the descent. The main pack is still 10:45 down on the lone leader.


Nieve is onto the hairpinned section ahead of the summit and he will bag the 35 points going over the top. Further back, Atapuma and Foliforov have been caught by Taaramae, Dombrowski, Kangert and Visconti. That may spell the end for Nieve's time ahead - but his immediate work is done, and the Spaniard will be into the virtual blue jersey, so he can rest up ahead of the final two climbs.


Still lots of snow in piles beside the road up here as Nieve comes within a few kilometres of the summit of this long, seemingly interminable climb. He still has a minute to play with and so should snare the points that he seeks to send him into the top of the blue jersey standings.


Astana easing back a little - and it's LottoNL-Jumbo, Movistar and Tinkoff who are doing more work, while Bob Jungels, the white jersey, is right up there. Meanwhile, Damiano Cunego, the blue jersey, is back with the peloton after featuring in the break earlier. He's really struggling and will lose the lead in the KOM competition today - right at the death.


Mikel Nieve, the race leader, finally passes some fans - it's been very quiet here in the isolated Mercan'Tour national park. Judging by their attire, many of the supporters here have cycled up themselves. The Spaniard's gap is 55 seconds now back to Atapuma and Foliforov. The peloton is now at 10:45 and so well out of the picture.


Another dig by Atapuma on the steepest 10% section of this climb of the Col de Bonette. He's reduced the lead of Nieve to 1:10 and they're struggling to follow. Foliforov is there, but Dombrowski, Kangert and Visconti have dropped back a little.


Nieve's lead was up to two minutes but has come down to 1:20 now after another acceleration by Atapuma, who has ridden clear in the break with Visconti, Dombrowski, Foliforov and Kangert.


Steven Kruijswijk is near the front right behind the Movistar train. Valverde's immediate target is the Dutchman's place on the podium - he's 1:48 down while Kruijswijk is 1:05 down on Chaves. Big test for Kruijswijk - it's not just about whether he can turn things round and win this race, but whether he can at least salvage a place on the podium for all his efforts.


Here's a peak of Chaves in the pink jersey. He's the seventh rider to wear the maglia rosa in this year's unpredictable race after Dumoulin (twice), Kittel, Brambilla, Jungels, Amador and Kruijswijk. The question is - will he be the last or will we see an eighth maglia rosa ride into Turin?


Now Movistar come to the front and Alejandro Valverde looks to be chomping at the bit. He has Rojas, Amador, Sutherland and Herrada pulling on the front. Remember, they have Visconti further up the road - and the Spaniard has managed to join the chasers with Taaramae.


Rafal Majka has four Tinkoff team-mates alongside the Astana train. The Pole hasn't won a stage in this race and he's one second sky of four minutes down on the GC, in fifth place.


Foliforov has joined the three chasers so we have a four-man group in pursuit of Nieve, who leads by 1:08. The peloton is now almost 10 minutes in arrears: the calm before the storm.


Now Atapuma takes it up in an attack that Dombrowski and Visconti manage to latch onto. Behind Foliforov is trying to bridge the gap.


It should be added that Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) managed to join the break on the descent, so they're up to 11 riders, although missing one in Nieve, who is currently 1:20 further up the road.


Astana have now come to the front in the pack, with three riders placing themselves inside the Orica-GreenEdge train, and four - including Nibali - tucked a bit further back. We know what they're going to try and do - it's just a question of when they pull the trigger.


Nieve has 50 seconds over the other escapees and 8:00 over the peloton. What a ride this would be if he can turn it into his second win in this Giro d'Italia. If he does, he'll win the blue jersey too - which would soften the blow for Team Sky following Mikel Landa's withdrawal earlier in the race.


This is what's on the menu with the Cat.1 Col de Bonette, which is a 22.2km slogfest at an average gradient of 6.9% and a maximum gradient of 10%.


ATTACK: Mikel Nieve has ridden clear of his fellow escapees ahead of the Bonette - the cojones of the man. He's still got 23-odd kilometres to go until the summit!


It's the Orica-GreenEdge team of the race leader Esteban Chaves who are leading the pack on this descent ahead of the Col de Bonette (2715m), which is often described as the highest mountain pass in Europe, but it's actually not as high as the Col de l'Iseran (2770m) or the Colle dell'Agnello (2744m) that the riders tackled yesterday. There is an extra loop at the top called the Come de la Bonette, which rises to 2802m, but they're not going that high today.


Today's finish back across the border in Sant'Anna di Vinadio is not too shabby, it has to be said...


This may help you get on top of the battle for blue today...


Rein Taaramae leading the break. Of course, Katusha's race was thrown out of the window yesterday with that horrific crash that ended Ilnur Zakarin's Giro. The Russian was thrown from his bike into a ditch at high speed, breaking his collarbone and suffering other injuries. Can Taaramae get in the mix and win a consolation stage for Katusha? Time will tell.


Orica and LottoNL-Jumbo lead the pack as it crests the summit just under seven minutes down on the leaders.


It's quite a fast and furious descent from the Vars so it will be interesting to see what happens in the pack, which is currently riding 6:30 down as they pass the small lakes / large ponds near the summit of the Col de Vars.


CORRECTION: Nieve was pipped by Atapuma for second place so he picked up 12 points over the top, putting him on 110 points in the blue jersey standings. Denifl, with 35 for cresting the Col de Vars first, moves to 108 points, while Cunego still leads on 134 points. That will change if his two rivals take the initiative on the Col de Bonette.


ATTACK BY DENIFL! The Austrian is hungry for those blue jersey mountain points and can see that Cunego is on the rivet. He has Nieve in pursuit, but it's Denifl who takes maximum points ahead of Nieve and Atapuma.


The riders have passed the urban sprawl of the Vars ski station and are now on the isolated road up and over. It's sunny but there are quite a few clouds, and it's Orica-GreenEdge who have bodies on the front for Chaves. The two chasers - Taaramae and Rybalkin - have bridged over, but there's no Ulissi for now.


The intermediate sprint comes half way up the climb where it levels out at the Station de Vars - and it's Foliforov who outsprints Visconti for the points. The gap back to the pack is still 3:15.


Rein Taaramae (Katusha) and Aleksey Rybalkin (Gazprom) are trying to bridge the gap, and they have Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) in pursuit. Back with the main pack, things have settled a little with Orica-GreenEdge on the front for the maglia rosa. The gap is two minutes.


An intersting group, with Movistar and Astana sending men forward to help relay their GC riders later in the stage. Then there's Nieve, Cunego and Denifl - the three riders still in the battle for the blue jersey, plus Atapuma, a lone ranger who came close to winning a stage last week, Brambilla, who's been so strong this year, Foliforov, who won the mountain time trial, and Dombrowski, who is really riding into this Giro.


So we have eight riders out in front: Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Fantini), Giovani Visconti (Movistar), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale), Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Tanel Kangert (Astana), Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) and Darwin Atapuma (BMC). They have 1:10 on the pack.


From the outset we were onto the Cat.1 Col de Vars, which is steepest at the start. Over the entire climb it's 18km at an average of 6% but there's a 13% section which the riders have already grappled with - and where the first selection was made.


Astana control things on the front of the pack - and they managed to bring Valverde back in to the main pack. Kruijswijk has LottoNL-Jumbo team-mates with him, and Chaves, in pink, has some Orica-GreenEdge team-mates too. Relative calm before the storm.


Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is in this break - and that is big news. The Spanish veteran is in fourth place on GC but only 1:48 down on Chaves. Now he's not the best at high altitude - and today's stage goes over 2,000m three times - but he's still not to be discounted. What a story that would be for Valverde...


Alexander Foliforov (Gazprom-RusVelo) has attacked and a small break has formed.


Damiano Cunego, who still leads the blue jersey standings with 134 points but has Nieve hot on his heels with 98 points, chases down Nieve to bring the race back together. The tussle for the mountains jersey is going to be an interesting subplot today.


Eurosport's Laura Meseguer spoke to Steven Kruijswijk before the start. This is what he said: "I could be better, of course, but I'm able to start which is the most mportant and I'll try and fight to the finish. I made a mistake in the corner. I tried to eat and drink something just before and I was trying to catch up with the guys in front of me, and I came out of the corner with too much speed. We discussed with the doctor and it's possible start. Morale was better but I'll try and fight for it." If you missed it, here is Kruijswijk's crash on the Colle dell'Agnello...


ATTACK: The first move comes from Mikel Nieve of Team Sky, who finished second yesterday behind Nibali and ahead of Chaves.


We're under way in France for this date with destiny. There's climbing right from the outset so we can expect fireworks from the gun.


The sun's out in Guillestre for the start of this decisive stage, which will decide the fate of the maglia rosa. The riders are in the neutral zone and the action is about to get under way...


The big overnight news is that Kruijswijk will continue the race despite tests showing that he fractured a rib in that heartbreaking fall at the top of the Colle dell'Agnello. Despite pain in his foot and left-hand side - but he's not giving up the fight. "We discussed with the doctor and it's possible to start, and we will see how far I can get," Kruijswijk told a group of reporters at the stage 20 start town of Guillestre. "I have been better [in terms of morale] but I'm still trying to fight."


Vincenzo Nibali's win puts the Astana rider in second place, just 44 seconds down in the new race leader Esteban Chaves of Orica-GreenEdge. Meanwhile, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) has dropped to third place 1:05 down on the Colombian.


Yesterday we witnessed quite extraordinary scenes in this thrilling race. The Giro d'Italia was indeed turned on its head on a day of high drama in the Alps as Steven Kruijswijk crashed out of the race lead before Vincenzo Nibali soloed to a sensational win in the French ski resort of Risoul ahead of Esteban Chaves, the new maglia rosa. Read all about it below...


Hello and welcome to this final ding-dong showdown on the 99th edition of the Giro d'Italia - it's the 134km stage 20 and it features three back-to-back Cat.1 climbs in France before a punchy uphill finish in Italy. Today it where the race will be won and lost - with three riders all within 1:05 at the top of the standings after yesterday's dramatic stage in France.