Geraint Thomas reclaimed the Giro d’Italia pink jersey and sent a message to his main rival for the overall title, Primoz Roglic, with a commanding performance on the final climb of stage 16 on Tuesday.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider pulled away on the day’s final climb to Monte Bondone with João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), opening up a gap to Jumbo Visma’s Roglic. It was Almeida who won the race to the finish line, but Thomas now appears to be in pole position to claim overall victory this weekend.
After the leading pair broke clear with 5km remaining, Almeida beat Thomas in a two-man sprint. The Portuguese rider, who wore the Giro’s pink jersey for 15 days in 2020, earned the first Grand Tour stage win of his career after a 203km route from Sabbio Chiese that totalled over 5,000m of elevation gain.
“I’m super-happy, it’s a dream come true,” said Almeida, who has twice finished in the overall top six without winning a Giro stage. “After four years I was always so far and so close at the same time. Finally I got it, so yeah, I’m super, super happy.”
Thomas reclaims the maglia rosa having lost it to Bruno Armirail on Saturday’s 14th stage, and leads Almeida by 18 seconds. Roglic is in third, 29 seconds behind the leader, with Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) a distant 2min 50sec behind Thomas in fourth. Armirail (Groupama-FDJ) drops to seventh overall.
“It was a very tough day, a lot of climbs,” Thomas said. “I am happy with how it went. I found myself in front with Almeida, he was better in the sprint. I am not surprised by him, he is a very strong rider and a strong contender for the maglia rosa.”
One concern for the race leader is a lack of support riders after Pavel Sikakov was forced to abandon halfway through Tuesday’s stage. His withdrawal leaves Thomas with just four Ineos teammates, having lost Tao Geoghegan Hart to a fractured hip and Filippo Ganna to Covid.
Wednesday’s stage 17 is a 195km flat route from Pergine Valsugana to Caorle, a likely stage for the sprinters before mountain climbing resumes on Thursday.