Kämna wins Giro d’Italia Stage 4, López moves into pink

Giro d'Italia
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ETNA-NICOLOSI, Sicily ⁠— German cyclist Lennard Kamna won Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia on the slopes of Mount Etna while Juan Pedro Lopez moved into the overall lead as the Italian grand tour returned to home soil.

Kamna, who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe, had time to raise his arms over his head as he crossed the line just ahead of Lopez, who banged his handlebars in frustration.

Both of them had been part of an early breakaway, as was Rein Taaramae, who finished third at the end of the 172-kilometer (107-mile) route from Avola that culminated on the steep climb up the volcano, as the riders faced their first serious test of this year’s race.

“It was a super hard day, especially the last climb. It was really long and really hard,” Kamna said. “I almost thought I lost it when Lopez had more than 30 seconds and I just made it to bridge. Then I tried to recover a little bit for the sprint and it worked out really well.”

It was a second grand tour stage win for the 25-year-old Kamna, who won a stage on the Tour de France two years ago.

Lopez will be able to console himself by taking over the leader’s pink jersey from Mathieu van der Poel, who had worn it since winning the opening stage in Hungary.

The 24-year-old Spanish rider is 39 seconds ahead of Kamna and 58 ahead of Taaramae.

“I’m so happy today for taking the jersey. I don’t believe this moment so I need to enjoy tomorrow, today, and every moment with the jersey,” said Lopez, who rides for Trek-Segafredo.

“I tried to go on the hardest part because there I can make the difference. I tried but Kamna took me in the last 2 or 3 kilometers and we fought for the sprint. I tried to fight for the victory but it was so difficult. But I have the jersey and I’m so happy now.”

Most of the overall contenders crossed the line together although Miguel Angel Lopez – one of the favorites for the stage win and overall victory – pulled out of the Giro after struggling in the hilly opening kilometers of the route with a left hip injury that he sustained earlier in the race.

Tom Dumoulin’s chances of winning a second Giro are all but over. The 2017 champion was dropped on the climb, as was home favorite and two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali, and the Dutch cyclist lost more than six minutes to his rivals.

There was more drama earlier in the day as well, as there were two crashes. Simon Yates was involved in one of them and needed brief treatment but was able to continue.

The stage sparked into life on the approach to Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Stefano Oldani set off on a long solo attack but he was passed by Lopez with just over 10 kilometers remaining. Kamna made the catch with 2.5 kilometers to go and the duo worked together before the chase to the line.

Lopez made a mistake in the final corner but Kamna admitted that, with the Spaniard guaranteed the maglia rosa, it was almost as if they “had a silent agreement.”

The Giro stays in Sicily for Wednesday’s fifth stage, a 174-kilometer (108-mile) leg from Messina to Catania that features a category two climb shortly before the halfway point.

The Giro finishes on May 29 in Verona.

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.