Cerny wins shortened Giro 19th stage after riders protest
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ASTI - Czech Josef Cerny won the Giro d'Italia's 19th stage on Friday after it started amid chaos and was halved in length following a protest by the riders against the wet conditions.
Cerny (CCC) broke away from the leading group around 22 kilometres from the end of the 123km stage and managed to hold onto his lead until the finishing line in the town of Asti to claim the biggest win of his career.
Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling) finished 18 seconds adrift in second place after a late attack.
Dutchman Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) kept the maglia rosa after finishing with the peloton which crossed the line nearly 12 minutes behind Cerny.
With two stages left to the finish in Milan, Kelderman is 12 seconds ahead of Australian Jai Hindley (Sunweb) with Britain's Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) another three seconds behind in third, setting up a dramatic finale between the trio.
Sunday's time trial is likely to favour Kelderman while the other two should be stronger on Saturday's stage which features the Sestriere climbs.
Friday's stage was scheduled to run 258-km from Morbegno to Asti but shortly before the start the riders protested about racing so far in wet conditions one day after a brutal mountain stage.
After organisers agreed to their demands, the race started as planned but after eight km the riders got on their team buses and were taken to a new starting point at Abbiategrasso.
"We were standing in the start line and the organiser said we could shorten it a bit," said Cerny. "It was very nice because we had the last three days really heavy and it was a hard day, especially with the rain."
Bernie Eisel, former Team Sky rider and now Eurosport expert, said the protest had been handled badly.
"(It) was really bad publicity for our sport," he said. "The temperature and the weather were good enough to do the full distance and they could have discussed way before if they were not happy."