McNulty claims first Grand Tour stage win, Armirail stays in Giro d’Italia lead ahead of decisive Dolomites

giro d'italia stage 15
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BERGAMO, Italy — American cyclist Brandon McNulty won Stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia for his first victory in a Grand Tour, while Bruno Armirail kept hold of the leader’s pink jersey as the race prepares for a dramatic and decisive final week.

McNulty, who rides for UAE Team Emirates, edged out Ben Healy and Marco Frigo at the end of the tough 121-mile route from Seregno to Bergamo.

“I’m stoked. This was my goal coming here,” McNulty said. “I wanted a stage win but I got sick in the time trial.

“I wanted to finish solo but luckily I managed to win even in a sprint … Let’s hope this win adds to the team’s motivation on GC with Joao Almeida.”

All three had been part of a large breakaway that went early in the stage. Healy attacked on the fourth and final classified climb and McNulty caught up to him on the descent, followed by Frigo with 10 kilometers remaining.

Frigo was dropped again on the unclassified climb shortly before the finish but the Italian’s superb descending skills saw him catch back up to the other two, with the finish line in sight, setting up the final sprint.

Geraint Thomas led a group of general classification riders across the line, almost seven minutes behind McNulty but 33 seconds ahead of Armirail.

That saw Armirail’s advantage over Thomas cut to one minute, eight seconds. Primož Roglič was two seconds further back.

“It’s been difficult to retain the Maglia Rosa,” Armirail said. “It was a hard stage with a lot of climbing and there was Einer Rubio at the front. He was likely to take the jersey so my teammates had to pace all along.

“Yesterday I didn’t realize what it was to take the Maglia Rosa but today, with the incredible support of the crowd, I’ve found out what it’s like. It’s huge and I’m delighted to stay in the lead on the rest day.”

The race has its second and final rest day before heading to the Dolomites and a brutal final week.

Three of the last six stages have been given the maximum difficulty rating of five stars and the week kicks off with one of them. There is more than 5,000 meters of elevation along the 126-mile route from Sabbio Chiese to Monte Bondone, including a top-category climb to the finish.

The Giro ends in Rome.

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.