Matthews wins Giro d’Italia Stage 3, Evenepoel keeps lead

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MELFI, Italy — Michael Matthews won a wet and long Stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia while pre-race favorite Remco Evenepoel extended his overall lead.

Matthews, who rides for Team Jayco–AlUla, edged out Mads Pedersen and Kaden Groves in a bunch sprint on the final kick up to the line. It was the Australian cyclist’s third Giro stage win and a first since 2015.

“They (his team) were fully committed for me to win the stage,” Matthews said. “It’s been such a roller coaster this year. Now already on stage three with a stage win. That’s more than I could ever dream of.

“I heard that Pedersen was dropped on the climb so I was hoping he would be a little bit pinned for the sprint. I just knew I needed to go a bit early, get the jump on them, and it worked out.”

The drizzle, especially on the second half of the 132-mile route south from Vasto to Melfi, caused several crashes but nothing that appeared too serious.

Evenepoel finished safely in the peloton and gained bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint – edging Primož Roglič – to extend his lead to 32 seconds over João Almeida, who moved into second despite being involved in a crash.

“We were just there, we wanted to take the downhill in the first positions because the rain made the roads wet and tricky,” said Evenepoel, who rides for Soudal Quick-Step.

“If the seconds are there to grab, we should not be afraid to grab them. One more second on Primoz and three on the rest is good, especially after quite an easy day and a hectic final.”

Evenepoel has worn the pink jersey since storming to victory in the opening time trial.

Roglič, who is considered Evenepoel’s strongest challenger, moved up to third but was still 44 seconds behind the Belgian.

The stage was one of the longest and flattest of the Giro, along with two categorized climbs towards the end.

In contrast, Stage 4 has hardly any flat sections on the 109-mile route from Venosa to Lago Laceno. There are also three category two climbs, including one just before the finish.

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.