A five-man breakaway battled to the finish Thursday as Stefan Schumacher won his second stage in the Giro d'Italia bike race.
Italy's Ivan Basso held onto the overall leader's pink jersey for the 11th day, and edged closer to winning the first half of his Giro – Tour de France double. If he wins both classics, he'd be the first cyclist since fellow countryman Marco Pantani did so in 1998.
Thursday's 130-mile mountainous stage, although not as rugged as the one on Wednesday, allowed the five riders to escape from the pack early and hold the lead the rest of the day.
After gaining about 7 minutes on the field, they started attacking each other in the last 10 miles. David Lopez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), for instance, powered over a small hill near the finish and tried to escape, but Schumacher caught back on and continued the attack.
The five played cat and mouse as they neared the finish line in Gemona Del Friuli, but Schumacher sprinted for the win. The Gerolsteiner cyclist won the 3rd stage of the Giro in Belgium, a win that also put him in the pink jersey for a day. He had earlier won the four-day Circuit de la Sarthe in France back in April.
No change in the top 10, with Basso leading nearest challenger Jose Gutierrez by 5 minutes and 43 seconds. The overall leaders:
Ivan Basso (Team CSC)
Jose Gutierrez (Phonak), 5:43 behind
Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval), 10.34 behind
Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery), 10:58 behind
Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), 12:30 behind
Wladimir Belli (Selle Italia), 13:00 behind
Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux), 14:06 behind
Damiano Cunego (Lampre), 14:48 behind
Victor Hugo Pena (Phonak), 16:40 behind
Jose Luis Rubiera (Discovery), 17:48 behind
Friday's Stage 19 is expected to be the hardest of the three-week tour. The cyclists race for 139 miles, tackling three mountain passes before they climb the final mountaintop finish at Passo Di San Pellegrino, climbing more than 13,000 feet along the way.