Pink Jersey for Wilco Kelderman after Brutal Queen Stage
Sunweb's Jai Hindley outsprints breakway companion Tao Geoghegan Hart to grab the stage Victory as teammate Rohan Dennis buried himself to grab the Cima Coppi award!
After a phenomenal team ride throughout the stage, Team Sunweb continued their successful year as Jai Hindley sprinted to a Giro d'Italia stage win at Laghi di Cancano and Wilco Kelderman moved into the race lead.
On the Queen Stage of the Giro, Team Sunweb set out with a plan to make the race hard in an effort to take the pink jersey. One-by-one the team peeled off after giving it their all on the famous Stelvio ascent.
Jai Hindley followed the infernal pace set at the front by Ineos, marking Geoghegan Hart, as Wilco Kelderman dug deep behind.
At the finish Hindley showed a clean pair of heels and unleashed a great uphill sprint to take the stage win, Team Sunweb's Men's program's 16th of the year.
Meanwhile, Kelderman showed true fighting spirit, crossing the line with enough time in hand to move into the Maglia Rosa; rounding off a great day for the team, doing the double as they take the stage and the overall race lead.
“To get a win for the team it’s massive and a win for me personally, it’s a huge step forward in my career,” explained an awestruck Jai Hindley at the finish. “I’m over the moon to take the win today. I’ve ridden around in this area a fair bit and I knew the climbs, it’s a stunning part of the world and yeah, it’s just amazing.”
“It was a crazy stage, I think it was the hardest day of my life,” continued race-leader Wico Kelderman. “It was a big fight all day but the stage win for Jai is super nice. We dropped Almeida on the Stelvio and from then the race was on. Ineos were super strong with two guys and I couldn’t hold onto them so I just had to race at my own pace behind. I was just counting down the kilometres and going full gas to the line. I’m happy with today, now we’ll recover and make plans and see what happens on the weekend. I think in the end it’s good we have two riders up there.”
Huge GC Upset as the Mighty Stelvio Pass Bites!
Today's anticpated stage did not disappoint!
A breakaway of around 12 riders went aay and had a lead of 3'15'' with 63 km to go. De Gendt took the intermediate sprint, to lead the IS classification.
O'Connor goes with De Gendt attackedas the breakaway reached the lower slopes of Stelvio, a 25km with 48 hairpins turns that tops out at 2746m. The rest of the break followed.
Behind,Sunweb and Ineos set a furious pace up the Stelvio thinning at the peloton. The maglia rosa had teammates Masnada and Knox with him.
The breakaway imploded and NTT's Ben O'Connor went up the road with a good gap. Behind the thinning peloton swept up the breakaway including De Gendt.
Kelderman had 4 riders, Joao Almeida only had Masnada to help him, as Knox drifted to the backas it was reduced to just 21 riders including all the GC favorites.
50km to go, Pozzovivo was dropped as Sunweb increasing the pace on the Steeper wooded slopes and switchbacks of the Stelvio.
It was here Joao Almeida was dropped and initially fought back to stay in contention. The injection of pace saw O'Connor's gap drop to 1'30 but Almeida was fighting on.
Majka and Konrad dropped. Masnada now waiting for Almeida. Swift dropped!
Rohan Dennis was pacing now. Dennis, Geogeghan Hart, Hindley, Keldermann in front. Fuglsang and Nibali dropped
Keldermann was struggling to follow Dennis's pace.
47km to go and was just Tao Geoghegan Hart, Dennis, Kelderman and Hindley left.
45 to go and Ben O'Connor was caught.
Kelderman was losing 17'' at 44 to go and was limiting his loses with 2m 40s lead to play with.
Rohan Dennis delivered Tao Geoghegan to the top of the Stelvio and took the Cima Coppi! Dennis took teammate Tao Geoghegan to the valley and pulled over.
Unofficialy Rohan Dennis's Stelvio climbing time was an incredible 1h10m 16s
Both Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley were seen struggling to put jackets on, which left them in near hypothermic conditions as they descended to the valley.
he final climb leading to the Laghi di Cancano with 21 hairpins along the mountainside saw Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jan Hindley ride on.
Behind Bilbao and Fuglsang slowly clawed back time as Kelderman limited his loses but started to lose more time.
Bittersweet' comes to mind... Wilco Kelderman took the pink jersey from Joao Almeida - but his lead is very short with just three days to go!
Kelderman leads by just 12 secs on teammate Hindley and Geogeghan Hart by 15 secs.
Thank fully stage 19 is a flat stage before the three ascents of Sestriere on Saturday ahead of the final time trial in Milan.
Who is going to win the race? Your guess is as good as mine!
Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) who lost the Pink Jersey said after the stage to the media, "I’m proud of what I did. I’m happy. On the other hand, I lost the pink jersey. The other guys were stronger and there’s nothing I could do. I was on the limit and I knew I could not go with that rhythm to the top. Then I took my rhythm in order not to lose too much time. In the end I think I did a good stage. They were just super strong. I’m not at their level. I like the climb of the Stelvio, it’s super hard. I was happy to have my family there at the top of the Stelvio. I even cried with emotion and I’m very thankful to them!"
VIDEO: 2020 Giro d'Italia Stage 18 Highlights
2020 Giro d'Italia Stage 18 Top 10
1 Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb 6:03:03
2 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
3 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain McLaren 0:0:46
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:25
5 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:02:18
6 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:04:04
7 Joao Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:04:51
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
9 Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain McLaren
10 Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:04:55
2020 Giro d'Italia GC after Stage 18
1 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 77:46:56
2 Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb 0:0:12
3 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:0:15
4 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain McLaren 0:01:19
5 Joao Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:02:16
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:03:59
7 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:05:40
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:05:47
9 Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:06:46
10 Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain McLaren 0:07:23