Team Ineos rider is just 15 seconds off the lead with three stage remaining
Last Updated: 22/10/20 4:51pm
Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart has ridden himself into contention to win the Giro D’Italia with just three stages remaining.
The London-born Team Ineos rider finished second on Stage 18 to move within 15 seconds of the overall lead.
On a dramatic day, it was Australia’s Jai Hindley who won the stage pipping Geoghegan Hart on the line.
Hindley’s Sunweb team-mate Wilco Kelderman finished back in fifth but did enough to assume control of the overall leaders pink jersey. His lead, however, heading into the final three days is just 12 seconds over Hindley and 15 seconds over Geoghegan Hart.
Inevitably it was the snow-covered Stelvio, the highest paved mountain pass in the eastern Alps at 2,757m, that provided the stage for a dramatic change of the script.
Joao Almeida, in pink since stage three on Mount Etna more than two weeks ago, faded early on this 25km slog to the summit and others, Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang amongst them, soon followed.
As Rohan Dennis put the power down for Geoghegan Hart, the bigger surprise came when Kelderman was dropped with nearly 10km of the climb still to come.
Hindley did not wait for his team-mate, determinedly sticking to the Ineos pair to the top.
The young Australian had more drama as he struggled to put on his jacket, almost crashing his bike at one point, before wrestling his arm in. But neither he, nor Kelderman behind, could zip up their jackets before the top – setting off on to the high-paced descent exposed to the biting cold with wind chill putting the temperatures below zero.
Kelderman crossed the summit some 46 seconds after the leading group, Almeida almost three minutes further back, though he would claw some of that back on the way down.
But as they hit the valley approaching the next climb, Kelderman quickly went backwards, overtaken by a recovering Pello Bilbao and Fuglsang as Geoghegan Hart and Hindley, two supposed domestiques, thought about battling for pink.
A scrapping performance from Kelderman would deny them that, but with such narrow deficits covering the top three, the race is wide open now.
A bunch sprint is expected on Friday’s relatively flat stage 19 to Asti before another mountain test to Sestriere on Saturday, though stage 20 has been watered down due to enforced changes to the route.
The winner, however, will not be known until after Sunday’s closing time trial in Milan.