Race report

Jai Hindley moves into pink jersey after 2nd place on Sestriere, Wilco Kelderman holds onto GC podium

Giro d'Italia

Photos: Cor Vos

The penultimate stage of the Giro saw the peloton make a trip into the mountains for one last time, and a triple ascent of Sestriere. The GC battle was delicately balanced as the riders set off along the route, with Wilco Kelderman in the pink jersey for Team Sunweb, 12 seconds ahead of teammate Jai Hindley and 15 seconds ahead of Tao Geoghegan Hart.

After a few early attacks, a large breakaway of 21 riders managed to escape with all Team Sunweb riders in the bunch, protecting Kelderman and Hindley for what was to come. Other GC teams came to the front of the bunch and started to reduce the gap to the breakaway as the race hit the climb for the first time. Well supported by Chris Hamilton, Sam Oomen and Martijn Tusveld, the team were well positioned over the top of the climb and down the twisting and fast descent.

On the second ascent, an infernal pace was set by Ineos and most notably Rohan Dennis who in a repeat of yesterday’s Stelvio stage completely blew the bunch to pieces. Initially, pink jersey Kelderman was able to follow and once again it was the same group of four who were to the fore yesterday. However, Kelderman eventually succumbed and found himself in a chasing group alongside the other GC contenders, while Hindley followed the Ineos duo over the top.

Hindley smartly took the bonus seconds as they started the Sestriere climb for one last time, expanding his gap over Geoghegan Hart to four seconds. Behind, Kelderman dug deep alongside the other chasers in the group, fighting all the way up the climb as the kilometres and steep gradients ticked by. Approaching the final three kilometres, Hindley put in several attacks in an attempt to shake off the Ineos duo, but Geoghegan Hart matched him each time, with Dennis returning to set a strong tempo. Coming into the final few hundred metres it was set to be a two-up sprint for the stage, with Hindley almost coming round in the closing metres, but having to settle for a strong second place on the line.

As a result, the pink jersey stayed within Team Sunweb, with Hindley donning the famous Maglia Rosa. After showing true fighting spirit on the Sestriere, Kelderman managed to minimise his losses and holds onto the podium spot in third place for the team.

“I didn’t think it was possible, but here I am; it’s an incredible feeling,” beamed Hindley at the finish. “We had a plan with the team upfront today. If Wilco lost a certain amount of time I had the opportunity to go for it and try put time into Tao, which I tried to do. He was super strong and unfortunately I couldn’t put any time into him and it’s just the way it is. I really put it out there today but I just didn’t have it in the end but to go into the jersey, it’s massive.”

“It was like we expected,” explained Kelderman. “We had the plan up front to react, and Jai was good enough to follow but I wasn’t. It was the same as the Stelvio stage with the best two climbers in front. I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t finish it off, but in the end I can be proud of everybody and hopefully Jai can finish it off tomorrow and then we have a really nice team result. I’ll go full gas tomorrow, the TT is always full gas and we’ll see what happens.” 

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts added: “Today’s final mountain stage was the last chance to shake up the GC before the short 15 kilometre final TT tomorrow. A big break of 21 riders went clear early but was kept relatively close by Astana. As we started the climbs Ineos began to increase the pace, then really forced the race to open up on the second climb. An incredibly strong Rohan Dennis then rode away from all GC contenders and only Geoghegan Hart and Jai were able to follow him. Dennis opened up such a large gap on the GC group that it put the pink jersey defence out of reach for Wilco and unfortunately big enough that they could ease up and turn their attention to the only remaining threat; Jai. Jai tried all he could but was unable to shake Geoghegan Hart. He has however kept us in contention for the overall victory, in a remarkable scenario they are now tied on time after three weeks and the final TT will decide the winner. Due to fractions of a second Jai will ride into Milan tomorrow in the pink jersey and Wilco looks to have secured a podium position; a position that exceeded our expectations and is a credit to the teamwork we have put in during this race.”

Results

Pos. Rider Team Time Points
1 GEOGHEGAN HART Tao INEOS Grenadiers 4:52:45 100
2 HINDLEY Jai Team Sunweb ,, 40
3 DENNIS Rohan INEOS Grenadiers 0:25 20
8 KELDERMAN Wilco Team Sunweb 1:35 -
26 TUSVELD Martijn Team Sunweb 5:59 -
31 HAMILTON Chris Team Sunweb 7:55 -
42 OOMEN Sam Team Sunweb 9:28 -
74 DENZ Nico Team Sunweb 27:45 -
81 HAGA Chad Team Sunweb ,, -