VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey in the 18th stage of the Giro d´Italia.
The Welsh cyclist crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.
“The legs have been good,” Thomas said according to AP. “Need to enjoy these moments.”
Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 161-kilometer (100-mile) route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale – including an uphill finish.
Thomas – the 2018 Tour de France champion – leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.
“It´s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn´t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn´t easy. I just want to be consistent until the end.
“Primoz, Joao and I are pretty similar. They each had a bad day and it could be me tomorrow. I don´t get carried away, I just do the basics,” Thomas added. “I´m sure it will go down to the TT on the last mountain day.”
Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.
With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome on Sunday, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history – beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.
Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.
Pinot again finished a frustrated second in a Giro d’Italia stage in Val di Zoldo on Thursday but the anger of his defeat in Crans-Montana was replaced by acceptance that had given his all and raced hard.
He was unable to beat Italian national champion Filippa Zana (Jayco-Alula) in their two-rider sprint after they emerged strongest from the breakaway of the day.
“I launched my sprint a bit too early,” Pinot regretted. “But I wasn’t the strongest rider in the breakaway. If I was, I’d have gone solo on the final climb.”
Pinot was angry after finishing second to Einer Rubio (Movistar) in Crans Montana, venting his frustrations on Alexander Cepada after the EF Education-EasyPost rider had been cagey during the breakaway.
Pinot was calmer on stage 19 but the day ended with yet another placing. He has finished second on five occasions in 2023 and has still to land a victory in his final season.
“Given the circumstances, I’m less disappointed than I was in Crans-Montana. Zana deserves to win,” Pinot conceded.
As a consolation prize, Pinot took back the lead in the King of the Mountains classification and so took the maglia azzurra from Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost).
Pinot was hoping to enjoy his final Giro d’Italia. It is the race he loves the most, a tattoo on his arm reading: “Solo la vittoria e’ bella’ – Only victory is beautiful.”
“There have been really hard days at this Giro, this is why I’m happy to wrap up the race being part of a breakaway,” Pinot said, lifted by warmer weather and the sight of the Dolomites on the skyline.
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