Laghi di Cancano (Italy), Oct 23 (IANS) Just 15 seconds separate the top three riders of the 103rd edition of the Giro d’Italia after a sensational shake-up on the Stelvio resulted in Jai Hindley winning Stage 18 and Sunweb teammate Wilco Kelderman fighting back to end Joao Almeida’s 15-day reign in pink.
A masterclass by the Ineos Grenadiers team of Tao Geoghegan Hart on Thursday saw Australia’s Rohan Dennis lead his British teammate and compatriot Hindley over the snow-clad summit of the Stelvio with a noticeable gap on the struggling Kelderman after Portugal’s Almeida and the other race favourites had dropped like flies on the longest and highest climb of the race being broadcast on Eurosports network.
Kelderman hit the wall on the descent and looked to be losing his chance to take the pink jersey – but he rallied on the final climb to the Lakes of Cancano, limiting his losses to his teammate Hindley and Geoghegan Hart, who fought tooth and nail for the win as Spain’s Pello Bilbao closed in.
With team leader Kelderman behind, Hindley had forced the Stage 15 winner from East London to do all the work on the succession of hairpins on the final climb of Torri di Fraele. But with the finish line gaping, the 24-year-old zipped clear to deny Geoghegan Hart a second success in a race in which he has taken on the mantle of Ineos team leader following the early withdrawal of Geraint Thomas.
Bahrain-McLaren’s Bilbao came home for third place ahead of Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) before Kelderman, caught and left for dead by both riders at the start of the climb, dug deep to keep his pink dream alive.
Although he conceded over two minutes – plus bonus seconds – to Hindley and Geoghegan Hart, Kelderman did enough to hold a 12-second advantage over his teammate at the end of a fantastic stage for the ages, with the British youngster just three seconds further back.