SAN MARTINO DI CASTROZZA, Italy (AP) Esteban Chaves secured an emotional victory on the 19th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Friday, and Ecuadorian cyclist Richard Carapaz remained in the overall lead.
Chaves earned his first win since being diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus while competing in last year’s Giro and taking eight months off from racing.
“This is pure happiness,” Chaves said. “It takes a heavy weight off my back. It’s a relief to be a winner again. It shows I can do it.”
Chaves, a Colombian who rides for Mitchelton-Scott, crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of Italian cyclist Andrea Vendrame, who had two mechanical failures in the final 4 kilometers of the uphill finish to San Martino di Castrozza.
Amaro Antunes was third, 12 seconds behind Chaves at the end of the 151-kilometer route from Treviso.
The trio had been part of an 11-man breakaway that escaped early in the stage and Chaves whittled down with a series of attacks on the final climb.
“Because the last climb wasn’t very steep, I had to attack many, many times,” Chaves said. “A big thank you to everyone who supported me when I had a hard time.”
Carapaz remained 1 minute, 54 seconds ahead of Vincenzo Nibali and 2:16 ahead of Primoz Roglic of Slovenia.
“It’s another good day for us and we’re looking forward to tomorrow,” Carapaz said. “We’re ready to defend the Maglia Rosa in a harder stage than today.”
The penultimate stage Saturday is the last chance Carapaz’s rivals have to gain significant time on the Movistar cyclist ahead of the final time trial in Verona on Sunday.
The 20th stage is the last mountain leg, with five long, categorized climbs in the Dolomites along the 194-kilometer route from Feltre to Croce d’Aune-Monte Avena.
This story has been corrected to show it was Stage 19 of the Giro, not Stage 18.