STAGE 18 – GIRO D’ITALIA
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.
At over 200 kilometres long and with 5800 metres of climbing, today the riders were faced with the queen stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Featuring the ascent of Campo Carlo Magno, the famous Passo dello Stelvio and a brand new finish climb to Laghi di Cancano, it was set to be a brutal day in the saddle.
Right from the flag drop the riders immediately hit the opening climb of the day and the attacks flew from the bunch, with the peloton drastically reducing in size. Eventually a 15 rider breakaway got clear, with all Team Sunweb riders in the bunch. Biding their time, the team took over the pacing on the next climb with Nico Denz, ensuring the leading group didn’t get too large of an advantage.
Denz continued to lay down the power throughout the valley, with the peloton and the rest of the team lined out behind him as they approached the famous Stelvio climb. One-by-one the team took their turn on the peloton, with Denz handing over to Chad Haga, to Martijn Tusveld to Sam Oomen and to finally Chris Hamilton. The strong pace set by the team completely decimated the peloton, dropping the pink jersey halfway up the Stelvio. Sensing a moment to continue to apply the pressure, Ineos increased the pace even further with only Jai Hindley and Wilco Kelderman able to follow the tempo set by Rohan Dennis at the front.
Kelderman eventually succumbed to the pace but fought hard, riding at his own rhythm over the remainder of the climb. Hindley stayed out front to mark danger-man on GC Tao Geoghegan Hart, with the Ineos duo continuing to apply the pressure. Over the final 30 kilometres the gap slowly grew out to Kelderman but he kept at a steady pace and rode within himself, not making sure to go into the red, holding onto the virtual Maglia Rosa throughout the stage.
Ahead, Hindley closely followed Geoghegan Hart on the final climb, not allowing him any leeway at all. Coming into the last few hundred metres, Hindley was poised and ready, springing out of the saddle and dancing on the pedals to take a magnificent stage win after a brilliant team effort throughout the day. Kelderman showed his fighting spirit and dug deep all the way to the line, taking the Maglia Rosa in Laghi di Cancano.
A truly great day for the team was rounded off as the results were tallied, as Hindley moved up to second place on GC, 12 seconds behind teammate Kelderman, and also taking the lead of the best young rider’s competition in the process.
“It was a crazy stage, I think it was the hardest day of my life,” continued race-leader 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.”