Tao Geoghegan Hart moved into a strong position to win the Giro d'Italia after claiming his second stage win in Sestriere.
The 25-year-old Londoner pipped his closest rival Jai Hindley over the line and will start Sunday's final individual time trial with the same time as his Australian rival.
Hindley did just enough to take the race leader's maglia rosa from his Sunweb team-mate Wilco Kelderman, who had started the day with a 12-second lead but fell away on the penultimate lap of a belatedly revised stage.
Pushed along by his Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Rohan Dennis, who had relentlessly worked to split the leading contenders, Geoghegan Hart repelled a series of attempted breaks by Hindley before bursting over the line to claim the 10-second winner's bonus.
Geoghegan Hart, who out-performed Hindley by more than a minute in the previous time trial on stage 14, is now favourite to become the latest British winner of a grand tour.
15.7km . . .
That is all that stands between this young man Tao Geoghegan Hart having a very good performance at the Giro d'Italia which, in my eyes, is the hardest of all three grand tours to win, and immortality.
He has already won two stages at this year's race which, in anybody's books, is a very successful race. But should Geoghegan Hart beat Jai Hindley in Sunday's time trial — and I am assuming Wilco Kelderman cannot gain over 1min 32sec on him — then he will become only the second Briton to take home the maglia rosa.
Speaking immediately afterwards, Geoghegan Hart said: "I'm very happy for myself, for my team and for the Giro: today was a beautiful day. Tomorrow's time trial will be a matter of legs, the route is short, I hope to have a good day and a bit of luck, then we will see".
Hindley is the new race leader
Apologies for the delay, but it took some time to be confirmed: Jai Hindley (Sunweb) is the new race leader despite him being locked on the same time as Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers).
Although that will mean Geoghegan Hart will not get the opportunity to wear the maglia rosa during Sunday's time trial in Milan, it will mean the 25-year-old avoids today's lengthy post-race obligations that go with being a race leader at a grand tour. In summary, that will give the Briton a little more recovery time than his rival ahead of the biggest time trials of both of their lives. What a glorious end to the most beautiful stage race in the world.
Geoghegan Hart wins stage 20 at the Giro!
And Tao Geoghegan Hart has won a fascinating stage at the Giro d'Italia. The Briton opened up his sprint around 70 metres from the line. The Ineos Grenadiers rider beat Jai Hindley to take the second stage win at this year's race which also earned him a 10-second time bonus. Rohan Dennis who put in a selfless ride today, took third.
By my calculations, Geoghegan Hart and Hindley are on the same time on general classification with Sunday's time trial to follow. And Geoghegan Hart is expected to beat Hindley in that. Presumably the lead will be decided by 10ths of seconds, based on the riders' respective performances in the previous two time trials in the race.
500 metres to go
Both out of their saddles, Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart are nearing the line and poised to duke this out: but who will win this?
1.3km to go — Hindley attacks again!
For the third time in a matter of minutes, Jai Hindley, the virtual leader in the Giro d'Italia, has put in an attack. For the third time Tao Geoghegan Hart is more than a match for his rival and friend.
1.5km to go
It's that man again, Rohan Dennis has returned to the front.
1.8km to go
Shoulder-to-shoulder, Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart are edging up this climb, but neither is willing to give an inch.
2.5km to go — Hindley attacks again!
And once again Tao Geoghegan Hart jumps onto his wheel. Jai Hindley eases off very briefly, as if to allow the Briton to roll through and do a turn. Not a chance, Geoghegan Hart's more than happy to sit on for now and, one imagines, try to do what Hindley did on Thursday's stage and win the uphill sprint for the line. The bonus seconds he would gain could prove crucial come Sunday afternoon.
3.3km to go — Hindley attacks!
Jai Hindley sets flight, but Tao Geoghegan Hart is straight onto him. Within the blink of an eye, Rohan Dennis is out of his saddle and powers his way back onto the front, cancelling out Hindley's move.
4km to go
Joao Almeida has attacked off the front of the Wilco Kelderman group. The Portuguese may end up taking some vital seconds here and climbing up the general classification a place or two.
4.5km to go
Vincenzo Nibali has now been dropped by the Wilco Kelderman group, while on the front Pieter Serry has popped leaving just Rohan Dennis, Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart — in that order — poised to conteet the stage and those all important bonus seconds.
5km to go
James Knox, yet another Briton who has had a very impressive Giro, is pulling on the front of Wilco Kelderman's group. The gap between the maglia rosa and the stage leaders has reduced to 1min 25sec as a result.
5.5km to go
Tao Geoghegan Hart drops behind Jai Hindley, the Briton watching the wheel of the Sunweb rider who is following the pace set by Rohan Dennis
6.5km to go
Matthew Holmes, another young Briton who is making his grand tour debut at this year's Giro d'Italia, has been dropped leaving four riders at the front of this stage: Rohan Dennis, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jai Hindley and Pieter Serry.
7.6km to go
Jai Hindley wins the intermediate sprint which sees the Australian extend his lead over Tao Geoghegan Hart. Hindley attacked from third wheel, but Geoghegan Hart responded but was unable to roll him over.
8.5km to go
Wilco Kelderman is trailling by 1min 40sec.
9.3km to go
The breakaway is done. With an intermediate sprint incoming where there are bonus second on offer, this could be key to the outcome of the maglia rosa.
12.5km to go
By the way, I forgot to mention that Geoffrey Bouchard and Matthew Holmes are now in the the group alongside Rohan Dennis, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jai Hindley. Further back Wilco Kelderman has a few more riders to nominally help him out, though his deficit is still growing.
13.5km to go
Race leader Wilco Kelderman, by the way, trails Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jai Hindley by 45sec.
15km to go
Einer Rubio is descending in the super-tuck position, but his lead over Rohan Dennis, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jai Hindley has dropped slightly, to 1min 10sec.
20km to go
Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart are descending at speed. Is Hindley going to attack Geoghegan Hart today? He needs to I think as I would imagine the Briton has the edge over the Australian in Sunday's time trial and so even though Hindley may take the maglia rosa here today, he could lose it when it matters most on Sunday.
25km to go
Just 25 kilometres of today's stage to go. As it stands Einer Rubio leads by 1min 30sec, but the big story of the day is the ongoing battle between Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart who are now filling the first two places on the virtual general classification. Over the top now and onto the descent, there remains one more ascent of the Sestriere. Geoghegan Hart, remember, stated the day three seconds behind Hindley and with bonus second on offer at the finish line that gap could either be cancelled out, or grow.
27km to go
Apologies, Einer Rubio is now leading the stage, the young Colombian is 1min 25sec ahead of Rohan Dennis, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jai Hindley.
28.5km to go
Unlike on Thursday, Wilco Kelderman has some allies to work with here as he sees his lead in the Giro d'Italia fly off up the road. However, if they didn't have the legs on Thursday to close these sort of gaps, I cannot see how they are going to do it today.
29.5km to go
And then there were three. Wilco Kelderman is pedalling in squares and as it stands his team-mate Jai Hindley is the virtual leader at the Giro d'Italia while Tao Geoghegan Hart is about the climb to second. Geoghegan Hart, however, has a team-mate in Rohan Dennis with him and they are making huge gains on the stage leader Davide Ballerini as the ride along and pick up stragglers from the break.
29.9km to go
Wilco Kelderman has been dropped . . . but Tao Geoghegan Hart has fallen off the wheel of Rohan Dennis. What drama. Was not expecting this to happen so early, but it is thrilling to see.
30.3km to go
Is this going to be a repeat of what happened on the Stelvio? Rohan Dennis has taken over on the front, pulling for Tao Geoghegan Hart. Jai Hindley and Wilco Kelderman are following the wheels.
30.5km to go
As the road pitches up further Sunweb appear to be faltering.
31km to go
Salvatore Puccio has peeled off now leaving the diesel that is Filippo Ganna to power through the cranks on the front. Jonathan Castroviejo, Ben Swift and Rohan Dennis are all there guiding Tao Geoghegan Hart up this climb. Tucked in behind, like limpets on the wheel of Geoghegan Hart, are a trio of Sunweb riders: Martijn Tusveld, Jai Hindley and Wilco Kelderman who is dressed in the maglia rosa.
32km to go
Quite surprisingly, Davide Ballerini, a sprinter by trade, is pushing on and the Italian has gained over a minute on the remnants of the break. The group containing the maglia rosa trails by 3min 21sec.
33.5km to go
Filippo Ganna and Salvatore Puccio are switching out on the front. Each doing a turn while the other rests and recovers before taking over, while Rohan Dennis and Tao Geoghegan Hart and sit third and fourth wheel, just ahead of Ben Swift.
35km to go
World time trial champion Filippo Ganna takes over on the front, pulling hard as the Italian increases the pace and starts to whittle this group down a little further. With a time trial concluding the race on Sunday, Ganna may have hoped to win a fourth stage in Milan, but he is being the perfect team-mate today and riding for Tao Geoghegan Hart. Mind you, he's so strong he could probably ride another 10km on the front and still win tomorrow's time trial.
37.5km to go
Arnaud Démare is caught by the Ineos Grenadiers-powered group that features all of the main general classification contenders — those in with a chance of winning the race, and those hoping to finish in the top 10 — and it is nearing the second ascent of Sestriere which is a tougher test than the first in today's stage.
40km to go
Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick Step) now leads the stage, though presumably the Italian is getting up the road on behalf of team-mate Joao Almeida rather than going for the stage win. Almeida, of course, led the Giro for 15 days before he cracked on the steep slopes of the Stelvio on Thursday. Although the Portuguese cannot realistically expect to regain the maglia rosa, he will be hoping to cement his fifth place on general classification which would be a very good result for the 22-year-old grand tour debutant.
44km to go
Rolling down the descent, nobody appears to be having any issues. Nobody is having any wardrobe malfunctions here today. Though fairly chilly as they summitted at over 2,000 metres above sea level, it is nowhere near as cold as the Stelvio on Thursday.
50km to go
Filippo Fiorelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) clipped off the front as he neared the first of three summits of the Sestriere in today's stage. Though I'm sure the Italian and his team will be delighted that he just added a few points to his tally in the mountains classification, the real business of this stage is taking shape around four minutes down the road where Ineos Grenadiers continue to set the pace.
53km to go
Salvatore Puccio leads the peloton, ahead of team-mate Filippo Ganna and Tao Geoghegan Hart who could ride into the history books today should he take the leader's pink jersey off the shoulders of race leader Wilco Kelderman. Despite riding third wheel, Geoghegan Hart has three team-mates — Rohan Dennis, Jonathan Castroviejo and Ben Swift tucked in behind, ready to give him a helping hand or, in the worst case scenario, a wheel or bike should he have a mechanical issue.
55km to go
The increase in pace put in on the front by Salvatore Puccio has seen the breakaway's advantage drop slightly, down to 4min 37sec.
57km to go
Astana's Óscar Rodríguez has peeled off the front of Tao Geoghegan Hart's group, allowing Salvatore Puccio to pull through and set the pace on behalf of the third-place Briton.
59km to go
Tucked in behind the diminutive Óscar Rodríguez is the entire Ineos Grenadiers team, including British sprinter Ben Swift. Tao Geoghegan Hart is riding fourth wheel just behind Salvatore Puccio and world time trial champion Filippo Ganna. He has a lot of powerful riders working on his behalf today.
60km to go
Arnaud Démare and Elia Viviani managed to regain contact with the breakaway, which would suggest the gradients on this long drag up are not too difficult.
63km to go
The breakaway is doing well to hold onto its lead at around five minutes, the riders each taking a turn on the front, but surely they will be getting reined in by the group containing the key protagonists in the general classification race this afternoon?
66km to go — Ineos Grenadiers on their move
Ineos Grenadiers have moved their entire posse of riders towards the front of the peloton, just behind a lone Astana rider. Once the boy in sky blue is done, one imagines Tao Geoghegan Hart's foot-soldiers will increase the pace in an effort to rid the field of any deadwood. Jai Hindley (Sunweb) will, I'm sure, be watching the wheel of Geoghegan Hart very closely. The young Aussie cannot afford to lose any time to the Briton, just three seconds separate the two.
68km to go
Although still climbing, the stage leaders are still not on the official climb. Their lead on the dwindling peloton has dropped to 5min 6sec. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has now been dropped.
69km to go
Nicola Conci has Trek-Segafredo team-mate Julien Bernard alongside him up near the front of the breakaway. Will be interesting to see if they are going for the stage win today, or are thinking about helping Vincenzo Nibali launching a last-ditch salvo?
71km to go
Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo) presses on at the front of the breakaway which has caused the group to splinter. Unsurprisingly, the sprinters like Elia Viviani (Cofidis Solutions Crédits) and Arnaud Démare are almost immediately dropped.
72.5km to go
Interesting to not that Bahrain-McLaren has a single rider — stage winner Jan Tratnik — up in the breakaway. Presumably he is up there on behalf of team-mate Pello Bilbao who may be thinking of the stage win today. The Basque rider will certainly want to cement his fourth place on general classification. Starting the stage 1min 4sec adrift of third-placed Tao Geoghegan Hart, Bilbao could do some serious damage today if he is on a good day and so Ineos Grenadiers will not want him going off up the road.
75km to go
Beautiful looking day out in northern Italy, absolutely perfect afternoon for a bike ride. But as the breakaway edges its way up along the valley floor and towards the first ascent of Sestriere I don't think too many of them will be thinking about the weather or, for that matter, the stunning landscape they are riding through. Although they are around 8km from the official start of the climb, the road is very much on the ascendancy and their advantage on the peloton has dcereded. Down to 5min 40sec now.
As it stands . . .
As mentioned, there's a 21-man breakaway off up the road and it comprises: Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-up Nation), Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Filippo Fiorelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane), Amanuel Gebreigzabhier (NTT), Simon Guglielmi (Groupama-FDJ), Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal), Mikkel Frolich Honore (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Tanel Kangert (EF Pro Cycling), Kamil Malecki (CCC), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Einer Rubio (Movistar), Pieter Serry (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Matteo Sobrero (NTT), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-McLaren), Andrea Vendrame (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Davide Villella (Movistar) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis Solutions Crédits). Their advantage on the peloton is a shade over six-and-a-half minutes.
Astana have had the remainder of their squad — Rodrigo Contreras, Fabio Felline, Jonas Gregaard and Óscar Rodríguez — riding on the front so their team leader Jakob Fuglsang may be feeling strong today and thinking about challenging for the stage honours here.
Most of the focus, though. is expected to be on Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Jai Hindley (Sunweb) and young Briton Tao Geoghegan Hart who has a strong looking phalanx of Ineos Grenadiers riders surrounding and shielding him on the approach to the mountains.
And welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 20 at the Giro d'Italia, the 190-kilometre run from Alba to Sestriere. As you will probably know, this is the penultimate stage of the race and the final day in the mountains ahead of Sunday's time trial in Milan.
Here are the leaders in the four main classifications — those awarded jerseys — the maglia rosa (pink), maglia ciclamino (cyclamen), maglia azzurra (blue) and maglia bianca (white).
Today's stage got under way at 10.09am and as it stands there is a 21-man breakaway up the road. Before today's blog gets away in earnest, I can tell you that Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) is in the breakaway and added some points to his now insurmountable tally in the race for the maglia ciclamino. Providing the Frenchman completes today's and tomorrow stages withing the respective time limits, then he will be taking that jersey home along with the fours stage he has won. By the way, the leader in the mountains classification Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) is not in the break, but neither is the second rider in that competition, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soubal), and so barring any disasters then the Portuguese will be taking home the maglia azzurra.
Pretty much the only jerseys that we do not know who will be winning are the maglias rosa and bianca. With just 15 seconds between race leader Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) and third-placed Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), with Jai Hindley (Sunweb) sandwiched in between, there is still a lot to ride for today. A lot!
In summary, today should be an absolute cracker of a stage once the race reaches the first of three ascents up the Sestriere.