Astana rider Paolo Tiralongo edged Spaniard Alberto Contador to win the 19th stage of the Giro d’Italia today.
With 500 metres to go, Tiralongo went for the line and although Contador was in close pursuit, the Italian held on to claim his first win in this year’s edition.
Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas was third, three seconds behind.
Tiralongo, who had broken clear of the leading group in the final six kilometres, completed the 209-kilometre ride from Bergamo in five hours, 26 minutes and 27 seconds.
“I am delighted with this victory,” Tiralongo said.
“I have to thank Contador. We are great friends and I have a lot of respect for him.
“He saw that I was in good form and told me to go for it.
“He is a great rider and he is very important to cycling.”
Saxo Bank-Sungard rider Contador increased his advantage in the overall standings to five minutes and 18 seconds over Lampre’s Michele Scarponi.
Nibali is third, five minutes and 52 seconds adrift of Contador with two stages remaining.
“The important thing was to maintain the (leader’s) pink jersey,” Contador said.
“I have to thank my team-mates because they did a good job today.
“I felt comfortable in the rain and I am satisfied with how the stage went.
“Right now all my focus is on holding onto this jersey until Sunday.”
Lars Bak (HTC), Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) and Matteo Rabottini (Farnese Vini) broke away 39km into the stage and built up a lead of more than 11 minutes at the halfway point.
With Stefano Garzelli of Acqua & Sappone determined to hold off Contador in the green jersey standings, the Italian rider broke clear of the peloton in pursuit of the leaders.
However, Garzelli narrowly missed out on catching the trio before the Mottarone summit, with Pineau taking the maximum bonus points ahead of Bak and Rabottini.
Garzelli went over as fourth to lead with 67 points in the green jersey standings, 11 ahead of Contador heading into tomorrow’s final mountain stage.
Mikael Cherel (Ag2R) and Yohan Tschopp (BMC) then caught up with the leaders as they headed for the descent with 60km to go.
As weather conditions deteriorated, with heavy rain falling, American Craig Lewis was involved in a crash.
The HTC rider was conscious as he was carried by stretcher into an ambulance.
With 27km remaining, the peloton split and a group that included Contador, Nibali and Scarponi, pulled away from the pack as they headed uphill from Piedimulera to the finish in Macugnaga.
The chasing group led by Katusha Team caught up with the leaders with less than 14km to go but Tiralongo then pulled away.