Pogacar still in the pink but Vendrame has his Giro day

Home rider Andrea Vendrame has won stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia, a 157 km ride from Mortegliano to Sappada, after breaking away from the leading group and going solo for the last 30 km.

As the weather worsened and rain started to fall on Friday, Vendrame took the brave decision to break from the group on the descent, putting some distance between himself and the chasing pack.

The 29-year-old had last won a Giro stage in 2021 and he crossed the line with one arm raised in the air, with Pelayo Sanchez finishing second nearly a minute behind while stage 17 winner Georg Steinhauser was third.

The peloton crossed the line nearly 16 minutes after Vendrame, with race leader Tadej Pogacar comfortably protecting his lead on a quiet day, with even a puncture not denting his supremacy.

The UAE Team Emirates leader continues to hold on to the maglia rosa jersey with a massive lead of seven minutes and 42 seconds over Daniel Martinez, with Geraint Thomas third after crashing with six kilometres to go, changing his bike and allowed to get back to the bunch, who slowed for him.

Ben O'Connor, the leader of Vendrame's Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale team, remains fourth, still 9:47 behind Pogacar and with his podium hopes all but gone.

A fine tour for O'Connor's Australian colleague Michael Storer also continued with the Tudor Pro rider still lying 12th overall.

"The whole Giro in general has been great in terms of respect to each other. We saw it today when Geraint Thomas crashed, no-one wanted to do anything stupid," Pogacar noted.

"It was a nice moment, not for Thomas but for cycling. For more than 15 years, I've known that a crash can happen any time. You need to be focused and try to anticipate eventual crashes.

"It was an easier day for us as a team so tomorrow we can control the race from the start and put a good pace on the first climb. Tomorrow is the last chance to have a stage win for climbers."

There was a fine ride from Jayco-AlUla's Australian national champion Luke Plapp, who came home fifth on the stage 2:27 down on Vendrame.

Barring any calamities, Pogacar will virtually seal victory on Saturday -- a 184 km mountain stage from Alpago to Bassano del Grappa -- before Sunday's final stage in Rome, which has traditionally been a procession.