Team Sky’s Chris Froome has produced an astonishing lone attack to win stage 19 and grab the pink jersey from Australian team Mitchelton-Scott rider Simon Yates, losing his overall lead at the Giro d’Italia.
“Witnessing history. A solo man on the lead,” tweeted race organisers in what is now the final two days of racing.
Long-time leader Yates, who started the day 28 seconds ahead of defending champion Tom Dumoulin and three minutes 22 seconds ahead of Froome, ended the stage with his Giro hopes in tatters after blowing up.
British compatriot Froome started the 185-kilometre ride from Venaria Reale to Bardonecchia in fourth place in the general classification, but launched a devastating attack with 80km to go up the Colle delle Finestre to storm to a famous victory.
Excited fans jumped road barriers to cheer Froome on, waving flags and running alongside as he pushed his way along the gruelling climb to the finish line.
Four-times Tour de France winner Froome is now perfectly poised to win the one grand tour missing from his collection heading into the final two days of racing.
“We knew it would take something really special today to first of all get rid of Simon and get away from Dumoulin,” said Froome, who won the Tour de France and Vuelta Espana last year.
“To go from fourth to first, I knew that wasn’t going to happen on the last climb.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever attacked with 80km to go like that before on my own, and got all the way to the finish.
“I just felt it was now or never. The legs are feeling good and I’ve been feeling better and better as the race has gone on. Hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow.”
Yates, who began to struggle as soon as the riders hit the Finestre at the mid-point of the stage, cracked on the climb and finally crossing its gravel-road summit more than 15 minutes after Froome in 79th place.
He now lies 18th overall.
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 25, 2018
Dumoulin, who had begun the day nearly three minutes ahead of Froome, was left trying to minimise the damage to the Briton on the final climb.
He failed to earn any time bonuses as he was overtaken in the final 500 metres, finishing fifth, three minutes and 23 seconds behind Froome who also took time bonuses.
Frenchman Thibaut Pinot is third overall after attacking an exhausted Dumoulin in the sprint to the line.
Australia’s BMC Racing rider Rohan Dennis, who claimed his first Giro stage win of his career earlier in the week, crossed the line in 18th place on Friday and has slipped out of the top 10 to 13th in the overall classification.
Froome said he felt for Yates, who struggled for the first time since first taking the race lead in stage six.
“My thoughts go out to Simon, he’s been fantastic so far these past two-and-a-half weeks, but unfortunately that’s the nature of grand tour racing.
“Things can change so quickly and it’s not over until it’s over.
“The Finistre was the perfect place to do it because the gravel roads remind me of riding on the roads back in Africa.
– with AAP