Canadian Derek Gee’s remarkable run at the Giro d’Italia continued Friday with his fourth second-place finish of the race, runner-up to Colombian Santiago Buitrago in a gruelling Stage 19.
Buitrago finished 51 seconds ahead of Gee and 1 minute 46 seconds ahead of Magnus Cort and Primoz Roglic, who just missed out on bonus seconds. Buitrago caught Gee, the lone Canadian in the race, with 1.5 kilometres to go.
The 25-year-old from Ottawa, in his first Grand Tour event, has six top-five finishes in the 19 stages to date – four seconds and two fourths.
Gee stands 22nd in the overall standings. He is second behind Italy’s Jonathan Milan in the points race and second behind France’s Thibaut Pinot in the King of the Mountain standings.
“I think that one will take a while to sink in, to be able to fight for the win on a stage like today was something I never imagined coming into this Giro,” Gee said. “Four second places hurts for sure, but it makes me hungrier moving forward to get that first win.
“I’m super proud of the team at this Giro. We showed what we are made of and even if we didn’t get that stage win, I think we gave ourselves the best chance to do it almost every day.”
Geraint Thomas maintained his bid to become the oldest Giro d’Italia champion although he saw his lead cut slightly by Roglic, his closest rival, on Friday on the toughest stage of the race.
The 37-year-old Thomas, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, is 26 seconds ahead of Roglic going into what will be a decisive penultimate stage on Saturday. Third-place Joao Almeida lost more time and was 59 seconds behind Thomas.
Roglic crossed the summit finish of the so-called “Queen Stage” three seconds ahead of Thomas at the end of the race’s final mountain road leg.
There were no flat sections and five tough, classified climbs on the 183-kilometre route from Longarone to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which had gradients of up to 18 per cent. The stage featured an altitude gain of 5,400 metres.
Roglic changed his bicycle shortly before the start of the penultimate climb and he made his move inside the final kilometre. However, Thomas was able to stick to his wheel and the British cyclist made his own attack in the final 500 metres and looked to have slightly distanced his rival.
But Roglic came back and gained what could be a vital few seconds.
The winner will likely be decided in Saturday’s mountain time trial that ends in a demanding climb up Monte Lussari, with an elevation of more than 1,000 metres and gradients of up to 22 per cent.
The race ends Sunday in a mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, where Thomas could beat the age record held by Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.