Roglic falls near Vuelta finish but gains time on Evenepoel


TOMARES, Spain — Primoz Roglic crashed with the finish line in sight in the Spanish Vuelta but still gained ground on Remco Evenepoel after the overall leader had a puncture a few kilometers from the end.

Neither rider lost time because of their mishaps as they benefitted from a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) protection zone at the end of the stage.

Roglic was bleeding from his right shoulder, arm, and leg as he crossed the line in Stage 16. The three-time defending champion was going for the victory but went down hard with 75 meters to go while trying to catch up to the leading breakaway group of four riders.

Mads Pedersen won the stage for his second victory with team Trek-Segafredo in this year’s Vuelta. He prevailed over Pascal Ackermann and Danny van Poppel.

“Everyone was really on the limit,” Pedersen said. “It’s a pity that (Roglic) crashed, he hasn’t been lucky this year. I hope he’s not too bad, so he can keep contending for the victory.”

Roglic, seeking an unprecedented fourth straight Vuelta title with team Jumbo-Visma, had his preparation for the final Grand Tour race of the season hindered by a crash at the Tour de France.

The Slovenian would have been at least fifth in the stage. He ended finishing 35th but was given the time of the leading group.

Evenepoel also didn’t lose time because of his puncture in the final kilometers, losing only eight seconds to Roglic, who now is 1 minute, 26 seconds back entering the decisive final stages. Enric Mas is more than two minutes behind Evenepoel in third place.

“I wanted to move up on the steep bump but my rear wheel just went off,” said Evenepoel, the Belgian rider from team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl. “I’m happy that the 3-kilometer rule exists, otherwise I would have lost a lot of time today.”

It is the 11th consecutive stage Evenepoel has held the leader’s red jersey, the longest run since Roglic took his first Vuelta win in 2019.

“I expected him to attack,” Evenepoel said of Roglic. “We all know that Primoz is really explosive so a finale like this is really made for him. That makes it even more a pity that he crashed. You never want anybody to crash.”

Riders were coming off a rest day. In Stage 17, they will face another difficult test with an unprecedented summit finish at Monasterio de Tentudia.

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.