VAZONE, Italy — Geraint Thomas cemented his chances of becoming the oldest Giro d’Italia champion on Tuesday by reclaiming the leader’s jersey after an intense stage that kicked off a dramatic final week of action in the Dolomites.
Joao Almeida took the honor of class 16th atop Monte Bondone, marking the same time as his first stage win in a major cycling event. The Portuguese crossed the finish line ahead of Thomas, who also received a valuable reward for a few seconds.
“I’m so happy; it’s a dream come true, after four years in which I’m close – and so far – at the same time,” Almeida said.
He continued, “It was a very tough, bumpy day, very demanding on the legs – probably the worst yet.” I felt good and took a chance. If you don’t try, you won’t know. I tried my luck and it worked.
Primoz Roglic completed the podium, 25 seconds behind the duo.
The result meant Thomas was back at the top of the overall standings, 18 seconds ahead of Almeida and 29 seconds ahead of Roglic.
“Yes, it was nice to win the stage, but it was one of those days when you have to keep up the pace with Joao and Roglic,” explained Thomas, who is part of Ineos Grenadiers. a team.
“We worked really well together… Unfortunately he surprised me and won the race. Still, it’s good to find the pink jersey and eat for a few seconds.”
Canadian Derek Gee of Israel-Premier Tech finished the stage in 38th place at 13:35 from Almeida. The Ottawa cyclist is now 30th overall.
Thomas will celebrate his 37th birthday on Thursday, three days before the conclusion of the Giro in Rome. The oldest Giro d’Italia champion is Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 years old when he won the Italian title in 1955.
Tuesday started off a very difficult week for the riders. Of the six stages to be negotiated, three – including Tuesday – have the highest difficulty level, five stars.
The descent was over 5,000 metres, and the 203km route that culminated in Sabio Chiese included five category passes, thus one of the maximum category leads for cyclists to the finish line.
And there, at Monte Bondone, the peloton finally exploded.
Almeida launched an attack with just under seven kilometers to go, and Thomas followed shortly after, setting the stage for a spectacular battle to the finish line.
Stage 17 scheduled for Wednesday will allow the participants to catch their breath for a while, given that the 195km route that links Bergen Valsugana and Caorle will mainly be downhill, before setting the stage for a mass sprint on the flat.
Sprint specialist Mark Cavendish is still looking forward to his 19th stage win after announcing on Monday that he will retire at the end of this campaign.