Bilbao wins Tour Down Under Stage 3, Vine leads overall


ADELAIDE, Australia – Pello Bilbao of Spain won the challenging third stage of the Tour Down Under, while Jay Vine – who was in third place – took a 15-second lead on general classification.

Stage 3, which favored climbers over sprinters, was decided on the short but steep Corkscrew ascent not far from the finish.

Bilbao took part in a breakaway with Britain’s Simon Yates and Vine on the way up the final climb, stayed with them on the descent and came off Vine’s wheel to cross the finish line ahead of Yates.

Australia’s Rohan Dennis, who held a three-second lead on general classification after winning the second stage Thursday, was held up in a crash before the final climb and couldn’t rejoin the leaders.

The 116.8-kilometer (72.5-mile) stage between the suburbs of Norwood and Campbelltown through the Adelaide Hills featured three of the toughest ascents on the tour at Norwood Summit, Checker Hill and, just before the finish, on the notorious Corkscrew which has a gradient as steep as 24%.

The first climb came soon after the start and allowed an early breakaway. Fabio Felline of Italy and Mikkel Honore of Denmark took the chance to put an early gap on the peloton.

They were caught by the peloton after the second climb and the peloton stayed together until the sharp and narrow ascent of the Corkscrew where Vine and Yates first went away. Bilbao, who rides for Team Bahrain Victorious, set out boldly to catch them and showed his proven stage-winning ability. He already has won two stages on the Giro d’Italia.

“Yesterday we were a bit disappointed because the race didn’t go as we expected,” Bilbao said. “Today this was a good day for me, short with an explosive peak and also with a sharp descent to the finish line.

“I had some difficulties to join Yates and Vine. In the last 300 meters I knew it was going to be a bit easier and I just did my sprint and I knew I was going to have good possibilities. They were looking at the overall and I was looking at having my best sprint.”

The race continues with the fourth stage Saturday before finishing Sunday atop 710-meter (2,329-foot) Mount Lofty.

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.