Cycling-Yates wins stage 19 on Giro but Bernal hangs on to extend lead

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Giro d'Italia
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(Reuters) -Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange won stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia on Friday, reducing the gap in the general classification to leader Egan Bernal, who finished third in the penultimate mountain stage to protect his overall advantage.

Yates finished 11 seconds ahead of Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in the 176-kilometre ride from Abbiategrasso to Alpe di Mera while INEOS Grenadiers' Bernal was 28 seconds behind to retain the Maglia Rosa.

Yates launched a solo attack with about 6.5 kilometres to go and left Almeida and Bernal behind to take victory on the climb, giving him an opportunity to finish second in the general classification over the weekend.

"I'm really happy, the team did a great job right from the start of the stage, a fantastic team effort and I'm happy to have finished it off. I really wanted to win a stage in this Giro," Yates said.

"I saw the boys from INEOS happy to ride a tempo from behind, I had a feeling they would let me go today. I read something from Egan on Twitter about how they would be more conservative rather than control and try to go with me.

"I had a feeling they would let me go and as soon as I attacked, I saw that was correct and I tried to ride full gas, and that was it."

Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) finished four seconds behind Bernal but retains second place on the general classification ahead of Yates in third.

Bernal is 2:29 ahead of Caruso and 2:49 ahead of Yates heading into Saturday's stage 20, a 163-kilometre ride from Valle Spluga to Alpe Motta.

"I'm happy with my climb. Of course, Yates was the best today," Bernal said.

"Today felt good and tomorrow, with the altitude, I hope to have the same feelings as today and try to manage the gap that I have with the two guys on the podium. I hope I will be in pink after tomorrow too."

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru;Editing by Toby Davis)