Giro Stage Report: Giro d’Italia stage 18 saw the race blown apart over the Stelvio. At the line it was Jai Hindley who took the stage and his Sunweb teammate, Wilco Kelderman pulled on the leader’s pink jersey. There was also INEOS Grenadiers’ Tao Geoghegan Hart in second place on the stage and now third overall. The top three are all within 15 seconds.
Kelderman in pink, but only just
Wilco Kelderman is the new leader in the 2020 Giro d’Italia with three stages to go. The Sunweb rider couldn’t hang on while climbing the legendary Passo dello Stelvio, but managed to limit the damage in the final and now has a limited lead over his closest rivals. The stage victory went to his teammate Jai Hindley, the brave João Almeida went down fighting.
A decisive day for everyone
Stage 18 – Pinzolo – Laghi di Cancano (Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio) – 207km
A colossal Alpine stage with 5,400m vertical altitude gain crammed in to just four climbs. The route starts uphill on Passo Campo Carlo Magno, leading into the Val di Sole, and after approximately 45km takes a first ever pass on the recently opened Passo Castrin/Hofmandjoch and enters the Val d’Ultimo/Ultental. The long descent on wide, well paved roads, winding halfway up the mountainside, leads to the outskirts of Merano. In Foresta/Forst, the route goes up again, entering the Val Venosta and travelling up almost the entire valley. The stage then tackles the 2758m Stelvio along the toughest side (nearly 25km sloping at 7.5%, half of which is above 2,000m). Immediately after the long descent (with several short tunnels in the central section), the route takes in the final climb leading to the Laghi di Cancano, with 21 hairpins along the mountainside (“scale di Fraele”).
The closing climb (nearly 9km with gradients around 7%) leads to the Torri di Fraele, approximately 2km before the finish. The route crosses two short tunnels and takes a brief descent to the Lago delle Scale, then flattens out, skirting the lake for around 1km. The final 500m have a mild 3.5% uphill gradient. The home straight (200m) is on 6.5m wide asphalt road.
It was going to be a hard day for everyone
The riders had to deal with the climbs of the Passo Castrin, the legendary Passo dello Stelvio and the final climb towards Lake Cancano. First the race went straight up from the start line to the top of the Campo Carlo Magno at 1,681 metres. A leading group of 24 riders soon formed and again Ben O’Connor was one of the driving forces. The pace was also very high in the peloton. The sprinters were soon dropped and the group of GC favourites only consisted of about twenty riders at the top of the Campo Carlo Magno. This group, with the main classification riders, managed to reconnect with the front riders on the descent. Six riders were still out front.
The Stelvio was the end of any GC hope for many
Daniel Navarro, Thomas De Gendt, Filippo Ganna, Stéphane Rossetto, Dario Cataldo and Fabio Felline managed to get a nice lead together. O’Connor smelt the danger and the stage winner on Madonna di Campiglio crossed together with Hector Carretero, Ben Swift and Alessandro Tonelli, just before turning up the Passo Castrin.
Some riders needed extra horse-power
Deceuninck – Quick-Step intended to make it a controlled stage, but still had to watch more and more riders jump to the leading group. KOM, Ruben Guerreiro put his EF Pro Cycling teammates on the front of the chasing group. The Portuguese saw his two biggest competitors (after Giovanni Visconti dropped out) for the mountain jersey, De Gendt and O’Connor, riding ahead.
No time to stop for an apple
The lead group: Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Thomas De Gendt and Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), Filippo Ganna and Ben Swift (INEOS Grenadiers), Daniel Navarrro (Israel Start -Up Nation), Dario Cataldo, Sergio Samitier and Antonio Pedrero (Movistar), Fabio Felline (Astana), Louis Meintjes and Ben O’Connor (NTT Pro Cycling), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) and Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling). Sergio Samitier was the best placed rider in the leading group, just over 12 minutes from pink jersey João Almeida.
At a certain point Guerreiro decided to make the leap himself and he took Matthew Holmes, Joe Dombrowski, Louis Meintjes, Sergio Samitier and Antonio Pedrero with him. These pursuers managed to close the last gap and so we started with a leading group of fifteen on the descent of the Passo Castrin. De Gendt was the first to top the first category climb, ahead of Guerreiro.
Sunweb had a plan
In the peloton, Sunweb took the initiative for Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley, but the difference to the leading group had now increased to a good 2 minutes. The German team decided to give the early break some breathing space, as the riders still had a long way to the base of the Stelvio. After 50 slightly climbing kilometres, the lead had increased to about 4 minutes.
Almeida had a dream…
At the front, the pace was increased by Louis Meintjes, who sacrificed himself for his teammate O’Connor. The South African climber managed to drop Thomas De Gendt. Wednesday’s stage winner Ben O’Connor did not appear to have tired legs. The young Australian attacked and no one was able to follow the NTT rider. In the peloton, Sunweb rode hard for their leaders, so that the group was considerably reduced to twenty riders. After Chad Haga had done his work, it was Martijn Tusveld’s turn.
Fausto Masnada tried to help
O’Connor rode further and further away from his fellow escapees and started the last fourteen, even steeper kilometres of the Stelvio 2 minutes ahead. In the group of GC riders, the race was determined by the Sunweb train with Tusveld, Sam Oomen, Chris Hamilton, Hindley and Kelderman. At the back, Domenico Pozzovivo was in trouble and Oomen lifted the pace. Almeida was under considerable pressure. The Portuguese race leader was having problems 11 kilometres from the top of the Stelvio.
Kelderman was fighting to keep his chance of pink alive
Almeida’s teammate, Fausto Masnada, waited for him, but the group was getting smaller and smaller. INEOS Grenadiers who took over for Tao Geoghegan Hart. A fantastic Rohan Dennis took the front of the group and only Hart, Hindley and Kelderman were able to follow the Australian TT specialist. Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang, Rafal Majka all lost contact.
The race was split to pieces
It was vital for Kelderman to hang on, but the second on GC was ridden off the wheels on the steepest stretches of the Stelvio. Dennis, Hart and Hindley caught the lonely O’Connor, Kelderman tried to limit the damage. Almeida, who was fighting for his pink jersey, was now almost 2 minutes from Dennis, Hart and Hindley.
Rohan Dennis was on fire
The best climbers in this Giro still had 6 kilometres to the top of the Stelvio. Dennis once more went deep and took Hart and Hindley in tow. Kelderman followed at half a minute, Pello Bilbao, Nibali and Fuglsang were at 1 minute and Almeida’s deficit grew towards 2:30. In the final kilometres of the Stelvio there were no more attacks, but the differences got bigger.
Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart flew away
Differences between the favourites at the top of the Stelvio:
Rohan Dennis (INEOS Grenadiers) – First over the Stelvio
Tao Geoghegan Hart (INEOS Grenadiers)
flag-au Jai Hindley (Sunweb)
Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) at 0:49
Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) at 1:44
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) at 1:44
Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) at 2:34
João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) at 3:40
Patrick Konrad (BORA-hansgrohe) at 3:40
Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain.McLaren) at 3:40
Rafal Majka (BORA-hansgrohe) at 3:40.
Kelderman was in trouble on the Stelvio
Although Kelderman did manage to limit the damage to 40 seconds, making him the main candidate to take over the pink jersey from Almeida. With 37 kilometres to go, Rohan Dennis was the first to cross the top of the Stelvio, followed by Hart and Hindley on his wheel. The latter had trouble pulling on his raincoat.
In the fast and technical descent of the Stelvio, the three front riders lost some ground, but on the flatter kilometres towards the final climb of Torre di Fraele (9km at 6.8%), the astonishingly strong Dennis managed to take the lead again. Kelderman was all alone and now more than 1 minute down. Almeida’s pink dream had now been shattered: he was 4 minutes behind.
The Hart and Hindley finalé
Hindley was beaten in the last intermediate sprint and saw Hart take a few important bonus seconds. Kelderman, was caught by Bilbao and Fuglsang and started the last climb of the day almost 2 minutes later. Hart had to do it all himself now, as the work of an impressive Dennis was finally done.
Moving up to 2nd and 3rd overall
Hart and Hindley started together to the finish, while Kelderman went through a crisis. The Dutchman had to let Fuglsang and Bilbao go, but managed to limit his gap to the two leaders to just over a minute and a half. At the front, Hart seemed to be heading to the stage win. Hindley wouldn’t come to the front as Kelderman was fighting for the pink jersey. Hart and Hindley rode together to the last kilometre and in the sprint for the stage victory, but Hindley had the freshest legs. Hart finished second, Pello Bilbao crossed the line third after a strong final climb. After the finish of Fuglsang, we were waiting for Kelderman.
The Dutchman turned out to have enough left at the finish. Kelderman took the pink jersey, although the difference with Hindley after eighteen stages is only 12 seconds. Hart follows at fifteen seconds and still has a chance to win the Giro.
Stage and 2nd overall for Hindley
Stage winner, Jai Hindley (Sunweb): “Winning here is such an incredible feeling. It’s a big step forward in my career and a double success for the team with Wilco Kelderman now wearing the Maglia Rosa. The tactics were perfect for our team today.”
Kelderman took the pink jersey, but can he hold it?
Maglia Rosa, Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb): “The hardest stage of my life! We had a goal and we achieved it. Wearing the Maglia Rosa is a dream after so many difficult years, I’m really happy to be leading the GC.”
# Sprinters day tomorrow, but more mountains on Saturday – Stay PEZ. #
Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Result:
1. Jai Hindley (Aus) Sunweb in 6:03:03
2. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB) INEOS Grenadiers
3. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain-McLaren at 0:46
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 1:25
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 2:18
6. Patrick Konrad (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe at 4:04
7. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 4:51
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
9. Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-McLaren
10. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 4:55
11. Rafal Majka (Pol) BORA-hansgrohe at 6:43
12. Domen Novak (Slo) Bahrain-McLaren at 8:15
13. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling at 8:17
14. Rohan Dennis (Aus) INEOS Grenadiers at 8:33
15. Ben O’Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling at 11:48
16. Ben Swift (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 14:48
17. Lawrence Warbasse (USA) AG2R-La Mondiale at 15:01
18. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
19. Sergio Samitier Samitier (Spa) Movistar at 16:22
20. Sam Oomen (Ned) Sunweb at 20:43
21. Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana
22. Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Israel Start-Up Nation
23. Filippo Ganna (Ita) INEOS Grenadiers at 21:08
24. Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 24:15
25. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC at 26:56.
Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 18:
1. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb in 77:46:56
2. Jai Hindley (Aus) Sunweb at 0:12
3. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:15
4. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain-McLaren at 1:19
5. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 2:16
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 3:59
7. Patrick Konrad (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe at 5:40
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 5:47
9. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 6:46
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) BORA-hansgrohe at 7:28
11. Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-McLaren at 7:43
12. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling at 9:34
13. Sergio Samitier Samitier (Spa) Movistar at 26:12
14. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates at 33:12
15. James Knox (GB) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 34:49
16. Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar at 40:59
17. Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 41:11
18. Lawrence Warbasse (USA) AG2R-La Mondiale at 44:45
19. Ben Swift (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 49:11
20. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC at 51:18
21. Sam Oomen (Ned) Sunweb at 53:45
22. Ben O’Connor (Aus) NTT Pro Cycling at 1:00:12
23. Matteo Fabbro (Ita) BORA-hansgrohe at 1:00:58
24. Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) INEOS Grenadiers at 1:05:03
25. Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana at 1:16:58.