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Giro d’Italia Stage 19: Fabio Aru takes the win and moves into second place overall

Race leader Alberto Contador opts to mark Aru’s Astana team-mate, Mikel Landa

Fabio Aru has taken victory in Stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia in Cervinia after escaping on the final climb of a gruelling 236km stage which featured three category one climbs in the final 100km. The win saw him swap places with Astana team-mate Mikel Landa who dropped to third overall having finished 1m18s down in a group that also contained race leader Alberto Contador.

With 9.5km to go, a small group of favourites accelerated away from the peloton with Ryder Hesjedal pushing on further still, opening up a gap. Behind him, Aru and Landa took turns to attack Contador and the second time Aru went, with around 7.5km to go, the Spaniard opted not to follow.

Aru caught and passed Hesjedal with 6km to go and from then on, he never looked back. He said he knew the final 100km of the stage by heart from the Tour of the Val d’Aosta, one of his favourite Under-23 races.

“I didn’t know what to think in the final metres. For 20 days the team has always been close to me, even in the difficult moments, and today my team-mates made the race. The team was fantastic from start to finish, every one of them.”

Ryder Hesjedal finished second with Rigoberto Uran in third after finding the strength for a morale-boosting attack late on. Contador now leads Aru by 4m37s in the general classification.

Contador said the decision to mark Landa had been a tactical one.

“The team was good today, and I kept an eye on my closest rival, Mikel Landa. You have to take a tactical decision in the end: Landa and Aru could have taken turns to attack all the way up the final climb. Obviously, I’d like to win a stage, but it is hard: the final group is always small and I don’t have team-mates with me because they work hard early in the stage, so the result today is perfect for me.

“Anyway, if you ask anyone which they would prefer, a stage win or the Maglia Rosa, they’ll say the Maglia Rosa, so I’m very, very happy because I’ve got through another very hard day. The final climb was very hard, and Aru was strong and took a great stage win. He’s second in the General Classification, and I wish him a great future.”

With plenty of mountains points up for grabs, Carlos Betancur and Giovanni Visconti, fourth and sixth in that competition respectively at the start of the day, ensured they got into the day’s break, but it was never allowed to get far ahead of the peloton and eventually only Visconti remained.

While he was eventually caught on the final climb with around 11km to go, the Italian rider did at least take the lead in the mountains classification after being first over the Col de St Barthélemy (20km at 5.6%) and the Col de St. Pantaléon (16.5km at 7.2%) earlier in the day.

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