Egan Bernal claims 1st Giro d’Italia stage win to move into overall lead

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CAMPO FELICE, Italy — Former Tour de France champion Egan Bernal showed just why he is one of the favorites to win the Giro d’Italia as he stormed to victory during Stage 9 to also claim the leader’s pink jersey.

Bernal, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, attacked with about 500 meters remaining on the summit finish in the first top-categorized climb of this year’s race. Bernal passed the two previous leaders to claim his first stage win in a Grand Tour.

It is the first year Bernal has participated in the Italian race.

“I’ve already cried twice,” an emotional Bernal said immediately afterward. “I cannot believe what just happened, I just won my first stage in a Grand Tour. I made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am now.

“I was thinking I would do well today but I was not sure whether I could have won the stage. My teammates had a lot of confidence in me, they told me I could do it. This victory is for them, they really believe in me.”

Bernal had come close to a stage victory in the 2019 Tour de France – which he won – as he was leading Stage 19 when it was abruptly cut short by a violent hailstorm and landslide. Times were taken from the top of what proved to be the final climb and there was no official stage winner.

The 24-year-old Bernal finally got his win on Sunday as he finished seven seconds ahead of Giulio Ciccone and Aleksandr Vlasov at the end of the 158-kilometer (98-mile) route from Castel di Sangro to the ski resort of Campo Felice. The stage featured three other categorized climbs as well as the final tough ascent on gravel roads.

There was a scare on the descent of the first climb of the day as Matej Mohoric lost his balance and crashed, landing on his head and snapping his bicycle in two. The Slovenian cyclist swiftly got to his feet and seemed to consider getting on a replacement bike before being taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

His Bahrain Victorious team had already lost leader Mikel Landa as he was forced to abandon the Giro after a crash on Stage 4.

Bernal took over the race lead from Attila Valter, who was dropped on the final climb. The Colombian has a 15-second lead over Remco Evenepoel and is 21 seconds ahead of Vlasov.

The 10th stage is an undulating 139-kilometer (86-mile) route from L’Aquila to Foligno. The first rest day is on Tuesday.

The Giro finishes on May 30 in Milan with an individual time trial.

Thomas sees Giro d’Italia lead cut slightly by Roglič; Buitrago wins Stage 19

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TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas maintained his bid to become the oldest Giro d’Italia champion although his lead was cut slightly by Primož Roglič during the toughest stage of the race.

Roglič crossed the summit finish of the so-called “Queen Stage” three seconds ahead of Thomas at the end of the race’s final mountain road leg.

There were no flat sections and five tough, classified climbs on the 114-mile route from Longarone to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which had gradients of up to 18%.

Stage 19 was won by Santiago Buitrago, who finished 51 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and 1 minute, 46 seconds ahead of Magnus Cort and Roglič, who just missed out on bonus seconds.

“I’m really happy with this victory. It was the most difficult moment of a difficult Giro for me personally,” said Buitrago, who rides for Bahrain Victorious. “I wanted to try and raise my arms before the end and coming here at Tre Cime di Lavaredo is amazing.

“This is the recompense for all the work that I’ve done. … There’s a lot of motivation for me and the whole team having seen the fruits of our labors.”

The 37-year-old Thomas, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, is 26 seconds ahead of Roglič going into what will be a decisive penultimate stage

Third-placed João Almeida lost more time and was 59 seconds behind Thomas.

Roglič changed his bicycle shortly before the start of the penultimate climb and he made his move inside the final kilometer. However, Thomas was able to stick to his wheel and the British cyclist made his own attack in the final 500 meters and looked to have slightly distanced his rival.

But Roglič came back and gained what could be a vital few seconds.

The winner will likely be decided in the mountain time trial that ends in a demanding climb up Monte Lussari, with an elevation of over 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

“Tomorrow we go full again,” Roglič said. “It’s good. We got a bit of legs back, so tomorrow we go full, eh?

“If I wouldn’t be confident then I don’t start. The best one at the end wins.”

The race ends in a mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, where Thomas could beat the age record held by Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Thomas celebrates 37th birthday by retaining Giro d’Italia lead; Roglic into 2nd

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VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey during Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.

“The legs have been good,” Thomas said. “Need to enjoy these moments.”

Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 100-mile route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale – including an uphill finish.

Thomas – the 2018 Tour de France champion – leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.

“It’s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn’t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn’t easy. … I just want to be consistent until the end.”

Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.

With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history – beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.

However, Thomas will still be tested over the next two days.

Stage 19 is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 114-mile leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial.