HomeSportsThomas dons pink jersey as Giro set for 'super close' finale

Thomas dons pink jersey as Giro set for ‘super close’ finale

British rider Geraint Thomas of INEOS Grenadiers holds the pink jersey on the final weekend of the Giro d’Italia

Britain’s Geraint Thomas holds the overall Giro d’Italia leader’s pink jersey after Friday’s grueling ‘Queen’ of the 19th stage was won by Colombian Santiago Buitrago on the final weekend.

Less than a minute separates the top three title contenders before Saturday’s decisive 18.6km uphill time-trial in Monte Lucari in north-eastern Italy.

“Tomorrow it will be great to see, awesome to do,” said Thomas, who leads Slovenian Primoz Rogic by 26 seconds.

The Welshman said he was expecting a “super close” race with Portugal’s João Almeida, 59 seconds off the pace, with the race finishing in Rome on Sunday.

“I’m happy with the result, the legs are back. Tomorrow is all about the attack,” said Roglic.

Friday’s stage in the Dolomites was won by Buitrago who survived the morning’s breakaway.

The 23-year-old Bahraini rider crossed the line alone, 51 seconds ahead of Canadian Derek Gee of Israel Premier Tech, who finished second for the fourth time in this year’s race.

“It’s an epic victory on a perfect day,” said Buitrago, who also won a stage last year.

Thomas increased the pace late on, but could not hold off a Roglic counter-attack at the end of a grueling 183km ride from Longron, which included five peaks.

Thomas of Ineos Grenadiers said, “When I went to go for the 400m, I realized after 100m that 400m was a lot at this altitude.”

“I just tried to pace it. Rogic got ahead in the last 100m or so. I lost a few seconds on the line but it was good to gain some time on Joao.”

– ‘Hurt for sure’ –

A tearful Ji missed again and finished second in both the King of the Mountains and points classification.

“I knew Buitrago was gone as soon as he caught me,” Gee said. “The acceleration was ridiculous. I just went over the line perfectly. It definitely hurt.

“I could have gotten a second lot, but at least I gave myself a shot.”

The day promised excitement with five hellish climbs, including the final ascent on the snowfields of Tre Sim, where Eddy Merckx won in a blizzard in 1968.

But Friday was nothing legendary as the favorites were neutralized until the final two kilometres.

This was the moment Roglic chose to attack but it didn’t bother Thomas at all.

So everything remains to be done in the time-trial, on a narrow road at high altitude close to the Slovenian border.

It risks bringing back bad memories for Roglic, who lost the lead in the 2020 Tour de France on the Planche des Belles Filles after a tough test dominated by Tadej Pogacar on the penultimate day.

But the triple Vuelta winner demonstrated his ambitions to deny Thomas, the 2018 Tour de France champion, of becoming the oldest Giro champion at the age of 37.

JK / EA / PB



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