Milan sprints to win crash-affected Giro d’Italia Stage 2, Evenepoel leads

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SAN SALVO, Italy — Jonathan Milan sprinted to victory in a crash-affected finale of Stage 2 at the Giro d’Italia, while pre-race favorite Remco Evenepoel held on to the leader’s pink jersey.

It is Milan’s first Grand Tour and the 22-year-old Italian punched his fist in the air in delight as he crossed the line. The Bahrain Victorious rider edged out David Dekker and Kaden Groves in a bunch sprint at the end of the 126-mile route from Teramo to San Salvo.

“It’s something that is incredible, I’m without words,” Milan said. “I cannot believe it because it’s my first Giro, second stage.

“Yesterday I did a nice time trial, I was quite happy, I was pushing good but I could never imagine that today was coming a victory.”

Mads Pedersen and Mark Cavendish, two of the riders who would have hoped to contest the sprint, were caught up in a crash near the end. That came shortly before the three-kilometer mark and so also caused time gaps in the general classification.

Evenepoel finished safely in the peloton to maintain his 22-second advantage over Filippo Ganna, with João Almeida seven seconds further back.

“Everything was pretty fine,” said Evenepoel, who rides for Soudal Quick-Step. “We were in the front so we were out of trouble but it was a pretty nasty crash I think.

“I actually saw it happen so we know who we actually can blame for this crash, but that’s racing … it wasn’t a nice move so luckily we stayed out of trouble and arrived safe.”

Evenepoel had stormed to victory in the opening time trial. Primož Roglič, who is considered Evenepoel’s strongest challenger, was 43 seconds behind the Belgian.

There was an early breakaway in the opening road stage of the race as Paul Lapeira, Thomas Champion, Mattia Bais, Stefano Gandin and Alessandro Verre got away from the start.

Verre sat up shortly after the first of two category-four climbs and Lapeira dropped back to the peloton after the second. The rest of the breakaway were swept up not long after, with 24 miles remaining, and they gave each other fistbumps after a long time out front.

Stage 3 is a 134-mile route from Vasto that features two categorized climbs before the uphill finish in Melfi.

The Giro ends in Rome on May 28.

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.