Paret-Peintre wins Giro d’Italia Stage 4, Leknessund takes lead

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LAGO LACENO, Italy — Aurélien Paret-Peintre won Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia for his first Grand Tour stage victory, while Andreas Leknessund took the leader’s pink jersey from pre-race favorite Remco Evenepoel.

Leknessund, who rides for Team DSM, became only the second Norwegian cyclist to hold the pink jersey and the first in 42 years.

“It’s super special,” Leknessund said. “Obviously I went for the stage and also knew that pink was possible. I had one attack where I went all-in to drop him and I made it but he came back. And my legs were hurting so much, but it’s super special to be in the pink.

“That was the goal before the stage but as everyone knows it’s hard, cycling is not so easy and to actually make it is unbelievable.”

The 23-year-old Leknessund attacked from a breakaway at the end of the 109-mile route from Venosa to Lago Laceno, as the Giro hit the mountains in a stage with hardly any flat sections.

Paret-Peintre was the only one who could follow the Norwegian on the second-category climb up Colle Moella and, after catching him, the Frenchman crossed the summit slightly ahead of Leknessund.

They rode together toward the finish but Paret-Peintre launched his sprint with 150 meters remaining and had time to sit up and raise his arms over his head as he crossed the line two seconds ahead of Leknessund.

“My main objective this year was the Giro,” said Paret-Peintre, who rides for AG2R Citroën Team. “So I just trained a lot for today, for these three weeks. We knew today was a day for the breakaway so it was an important day for the team because we came here to take some stage victories and GC (general classification).”

Toms Skujins was third, 57 seconds behind Paret-Peintre.

Evenepoel finished safely in the peloton, 2 minutes, 1 second behind Paret-Peintre. He now trails Leknessund by 28 seconds in the overall standings, with Paret-Peintre two seconds further back.

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

Stage 5 also has two categorized climbs in a 106-mile route from Atripalda before a flat finale to Salerno.

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.