Wilco Kelderman moved into the overall lead of the Giro d’Italia by wresting the pink jersey from long-time wearer Joao Almeida on the iconic Stelvio climb Thursday on the race’s toughest stage.
Kelderman finished fifth on the 18th stage, 2 minutes, 18 seconds behind Team Sunweb teammate Jai Hindley, who earned his first victory in a Grand Tour by edging out Tao Geoghegan Hart on the line at the end of the so-called “Queen stage.”
It took the riders more than six hours to complete the 207-kilometre (128.6-mile) route from Pinzolo to Laghi di Cancano.
Kelderman started the day second overall, 17 seconds behind Almeida. The Dutch rider now has a 12-second advantage over Hindley, who moved up to second place.
Geoghegan Hart is third overall, 15 seconds behind.
“It was a crazy day, super hard, the hardest day of my life,” Kelderman said. "It was a super fight. It couldn’t be any better for us with Jai getting the stage win and me in pink.
“I knew it would be close but I got it, so I’m happy. We dropped Almeida quite early on the Stelvio and then it was a race. ... Now we recover and make plans and then we see the last stages what happens.”
Almeida, who had worn the pink jersey since the end of Stage 3, finished seventh on the day and slipped to fifth overall, 2:16 behind Kelderman.
The riders knew the stage would be potentially decisive as it featured four classified climbs, three of which were the highest category.
One of those was the iconic Stelvio, which also has 48 hairpin turns, and snow piled high on its banks along the 24.8-kilometre climb up to the 2,746-meter (9,009-feet) high pass — the highest of the race. And it was there that the general classification was shaken up.
Hindley and Geoghegan Hart were part of a trio of riders who went clear on the climb, along with Rohan Dennis.
Kelderman crossed the summit of the monster climb 46 seconds behind, with Almeida almost three minutes further back.
They both lost further time on the final Torri di Fraele climb.
“Winning here is such an incredible feeling,” the 24-year-old Hindley said. “It’s a big step forward in my career and a double success for the team with Wilco Kelderman now wearing the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey). The tactics were perfect for our team today.”
Friday’s 19th stage is a mainly flat but lengthy route from Morbegno to Asti. At 258 kilometres (160.3 miles) it is the longest stage of this year’s race.
The Giro was rescheduled from its usual May slot because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race ends on Sunday with an individual time trial in Milan.