Roglic gains time during Giro d’Italia Stage 8; Healy wins with solo breakaway

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FOSSOMBORONE, Italy — Primoz Roglic launched the first significant attack of the Giro d’Italia during an undulating Stage 8 and gained 14 seconds on overall rival Remco Evenepoel.

Ineos teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart and Geraint Thomas also rode strongly.

Irish rider Ben Healy won the stage with a solo breakaway, while Norway’s Andreas Leknessund held onto the pink jersey despite losing a big chunk of time.

Healy got into an early breakaway and surged ahead in the finale on the first of two ascents up the short but steep Muro dei Cappuccini climb, which featured gradients of up to 19%.

The Cappuccini climb was also where Roglic burst into action on the second ascent with six kilometers to go.

By the top of the climb, only Geoghegan Hart and Thomas were with Roglic, while Evenepoel was left behind, and Leknessund even further back.

Leknessund’s overall lead ahead of Evenepoel was reduced to eight seconds, with Roglic surging up to third, 38 seconds back.

“It’s a relief to retain the maglia rosa (pink jersey) after such a strong effort at the end,” Leknessund said. “It was the fight I expected in the last climb. I probably wouldn’t have raced like that if I wasn’t wearing the maglia rosa.”

Joao Almeida is fourth overall, while Thomas and Geoghegan Hart moved up to fifth and sixth, respectively.

Roglic is a three-time Spanish Vuelta champion, Geoghegan Hart won the Giro in 2020 and Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France. Evenepoel won the Vuelta last year and is also the reigning world champion.

Healy, who rides for the EF Education-EasyPost team, finished 1 minutes, 49 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and Filippo Zanna.

“I went from far out but I thought this was the right move,” Healy said. “I didn’t want to lose my chance to win. I had good legs all along.”

The 129-mile leg began in Terni and concluded in Fossombrone.

Before the stage, the Ineos team announced that time trial specialist Filippo Ganna had withdrawn from the race after testing positive for the coronavirus and “displaying mild flu-like symptoms.”

It was unfortunate timing for Ganna, since Stage 9 is the longest of the race’s three individual time trials, following an almost entirely flat 22-mile route from Savignano Sul Rubicone to Cesena near the Adriatic coast.

The race 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.