STAGE 20 – GIRO D’ITALIA
The penultimate stage of the Giro saw the peloton make a trip into the mountains for one last time, and a triple ascent of Sestriere. The GC battle was delicately balanced as the riders set off along the route, with Wilco in the pink jersey for Team Sunweb, 12 seconds ahead of teammate Jai Hindley and 15 seconds ahead of Tao Geoghegan Hart.
After a few early attacks, a large breakaway of 21 riders managed to escape with all Team Sunweb riders in the bunch, protecting Kelderman and Hindley for what was to come. Other GC teams came to the front of the bunch and started to reduce the gap to the breakaway as the race hit the climb for the first time. Well supported by Chris Hamilton, Sam Oomen and Martijn Tusveld, the team were well positioned over the top of the climb and down the twisting and fast descent.
On the second ascent, an infernal pace was set by Ineos and most notably Rohan Dennis who in a repeat of yesterday’s Stelvio stage completely blew the bunch to pieces. Initially, pink jersey Kelderman was able to follow and once again it was the same group of four who were to the fore yesterday. However, Kelderman eventually succumbed and found himself in a chasing group alongside the other GC contenders, while Hindley followed the Ineos duo over the top.
Hindley smartly took the bonus seconds as they started the Sestriere climb for one last time, expanding his gap over Geoghegan Hart to four seconds. Behind, Kelderman dug deep alongside the other chasers in the group, fighting all the way up the climb as the kilometres and steep gradients ticked by. Approaching the final three kilometres, Hindley put in several attacks in an attempt to shake off the Ineos duo, but Geoghegan Hart matched him each time, with Dennis returning to set a strong tempo. Coming into the final few hundred metres it was set to be a two-up sprint for the stage, with Hindley almost coming round in the closing metres, but having to settle for a strong second place on the line.
As a result, the pink jersey stayed within Team Sunweb, with Hindley donning the famous Maglia Rosa. After showing true fighting spirit on the Sestriere, Kelderman managed to minimise his losses and holds onto the podium spot in third place for the team.
“It was like we expected,” explained Kelderman. “We had the plan up front to react, and Jai was good enough to follow but I wasn’t. It was the same as the Stelvio stage with the best two climbers in front. I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t finish it off, but in the end I can be proud of everybody and hopefully Jai can finish it off tomorrow and then we have a really nice team result. I’ll go full gas tomorrow, the TT is always full gas and we’ll see what happens.”