MONTE BONDONE, Italy (AP) — Geraint Thomas boosted his bid to become the Giro d’Italia’s oldest winner by moving back into the leader’s pink jersey on Tuesday as the race exploded into life at the start of a dramatic and decisive final week in the Dolomites.
João Almeida won the tough 16th stage atop Monte Bondone for his first victory in a Grand Tour. The Portuguese cyclist crossed the summit finish just ahead of Thomas, who also picked up valuable bonus seconds.
Primož Roglič was third 25 seconds further behind.
The result saw Thomas move back into the lead, 18 seconds ahead of Almeida and 29 in front of Roglič.
Ottawa’s Derek Gee, who posted three second-place finishes and one fourth in earlier stages, was 38th. The lone Canadian in the Giro field, Gee is 30th overall, the top Israel-Premier Tech rider.
Gee is second in the points race, behind Italy’s Jonathan Milan, and ninth in the King of the Mountain standings.
Thomas turns 37 on Thursday, three days before the race ends in Rome. The oldest Giro winner is Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.
Tuesday marked the beginning of a brutal final week. It was one of three of the last six stages that have been given the maximum difficulty rating of five stars.
There was more than 5,000 meters of elevation and five categorised climbs along the 203-kilometer (126-mile) route from Sabbio Chiese, including the top-category climb to the finish.
And it was on that climb to Monte Bondone that the race sparked into life.
Almeida attacked with less than seven kilometers remaining and Thomas made his move shortly after, bridging across to set up the battle for the stage win.
Wednesday’s 17th stage offers a brief respite as the 195-kilometer (121-mile) route from Pergine Valsugana to Caorle starts with a gradual descent before a long, flat finish which is likely to end in a bunch sprint.
Veteran sprint specialist Mark Cavendish will be hoping for a 19th Giro victory after announcing on Monday that he will retire at the end of the season.
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