Giro d’Italia stage 16: João Almeida wins on Monte Bondone, Geraint Thomas back in pink
Primož Roglič loses 25 seconds in fight for pink jersey as GC battle heats up.
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João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) took victory on stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia after attacking the other favorites with six kilometers to go.
The Portuguese rider outsprinted Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) in a two-up dash for the line, after the Welshman bridged over to him. Despite missing out on the stage win, Thomas would take back the pink jersey he gave away at the end of last as Bruno Amirail (Groupama-FDJ) slipped down the standings.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was the first of the chasers behind Thomas and Almeida, but he gave away 25 seconds to his rivals, as did Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla) who finished fourth.
“I’m super happy, it’s a dream come true. After four years, I was always so close and yet so far at the same time. Finally I got it and I’m super happy, I don’t have words to describe it,” Almeida said.
“My team was amazing, they did a really good job as always. I tried to give it a go at the end, it was a super hard day always up and down. I would say it was the hardest so far but I was feeling good and I took the risk, if you don’t try you’ll never know. I tried and I achieved it and I’m so thankful to the team, my family, and my girlfriend.
“I will always try for more, if I feel good I will attack. If I don’t attack then maybe it’s because I’m not so good. I will always fight until the end to give everything I have.”
Thomas holds an 18-second advantage over Almeida in the GC with Roglič now third at 29 seconds back. No other rider is within two minutes of the race lead as fourth-placed rider Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) is at 2:50 back.
“It would have been nice to win the stage but it was one of them, we had to keep riding and I didn’t want to play cat and mouse with João with Roglič behind. I led it out but unfortunately he had the jump on me and won the sprint. It’s nice to be back in pink and gain some time,” Thomas said.
“[Almeida] was always one of the biggest rivals coming here and he’s shown how strong he is and his team as well, so it’s no surprise.”
A hard day out
There was no easing into the final week of the Giro d’Italia with the ride to the summit finish on the first category Monte Bondone featuring four other classified climbs. The riders were pretty eager, too, and a fast fight for the breakaway played out with 26 riders eventually going clear.
Aurélien Paret-Peintre, who started the day just 4:30 behind the pink jersey, in the move, the breakaway was not given too much room by the peloton. Fortunately for Groupama-FDJ, Jumbo-Visma was more than happy to help with the pace setting and keeping the break at relatively close quarters.
On the third climb of the day, Astana decided it didn’t want to work with the rest of the breakaway with Vadim Pronskiy attacking first before Christian Scaroni joined up with him. The duo could only build a small advantage with Valentin Paret-Peintre taking up the responsibility of the chase for his brother.
In the peloton, the pace set by Jumbo-Visma was doing significant damage as riders continually dropped off the back under the strain. With 50km to go, Groupama-FDJ had just Amirail and Thibaut Pinot remaining in the lead group.
Thomas saw some of his key Ineos Grenadiers teammates get distanced under the pace, including Pavel Sivakov, and had just two teammates left with him. However, the team had sent two riders up the road in the breakaway, leaving options for help later in the day.
Sivakov would later step off the bike and abandon as a result of injuries he sustained in a crash during the second week, making him the third Ineos rider to quit since the race began.
Before the penultimate climb was done, the breakaway had reeled back in the Astana riders. By that point, the group had been reduced to just 12 riders from the original 26 that got away at the beginning of the day.
The gap to the peloton behind was also quickly coming down. It has been over six minutes at one point, but it had dropped to 3:30 by the foot of the final climb with just over 20km to go. Attacks soon came with Carlos Verona (Movistar) and Filippo Zanna (Jayco-AlUla) having a go.
However, Jumbo-Visma and then UAE Team Emirates were working hard in the peloton behind. Amirail held on as long as he could, but the elastic finally snapped with eight kilometers remaining. By that point, the gap to the escapees had fallen to a minute.
The group of leaders was quickly reducing and soon just Geraint Thomas, João Almeida, Primož Roglič, Sepp Kuss, and Eddie Dunbar remained. Zanna put in a shift for Dunbar after he was caught from the breakaway, before peeling off.
Almeida was the first to blink as he attacked six kilometers from the line. Nobody initially followed him, but Thomas would bridge over a short while later with Roglič, Kuss, and Dunbar distanced behind.
Thomas was flying and set a tough pace in front of a grimacing Almeida, pulling out a big gap on Roglič behind. With three kilometers to go, it was almost a minute already but a big push from Kuss helped to bring it down to around 35 seconds with two to go.
As the leading pair came into the final kilometer, they were still working together as they tried to put in as much time as possible into the chasers behind. It would come down to a sprint, and Almeida would ultimately take the stage win over Thomas, but the latter would take back the pink jersey.
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