Jai Hindley pipped by Tao Geoghegan Hart in thrilling Giro d’Italia finish, falling 39 seconds short of glory


Jai Hindley has agonisingly missed out on his bid to become the first Australian cyclist to win the prestigious Giro d’Italia, finishing runner-up for the title by a mere 39 seconds after a thrilling final day time trial duel with his British friend Tao Geoghegan Hart.

In one of the closest finishes ever seen in the race, Hindley — a 24-year-old from Perth who had only been expected to be a domestique working for others — almost ended as only the second Australian ever to win a grand tour, following 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.

Hindley and Geoghegan Hart had started the final 21st stage on effectively level on time with the Australian, who was the last man to tackle the 15.7km time trial on Sunday in the leader’s famous pink jersey, calculated to be just 0.86 seconds ahead.

The West Australian did indeed give everything in a courageous ride as he powered through the streets of Milan yet it was quickly evident as the time checks came that Geoghegan Hart was just too strong in the discipline that pits riders against the clock.

The Briton had beaten Hindley 7-2 in their previous time trials and once again proved too accomplished when it mattered.

It all left Hindley, who could only finish 38th in the time trial, feeling downcast, as he effectively only held on to the pink jersey for less than 19 minutes.

“It’s pretty hard to take because I was so close,” he said.

“But when I look back, I think I’ll be super proud of what I’ve achieved.

“These are massive steps forward in my career. These are three weeks that I’ll never forget.”

Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart celebrates his Giro d’Italia victory.(AP: Luca Bruno)

Hindley said he was thrilled with all the messages of support he had received from fans throughout Australia, who stayed up through the night to watch him.

“I want to thank everyone who stayed up to watch me,” he said.

“It’s really unbelievable the support I’ve had.”

Hindley’s Team Sunweb teammate Wilco Kelderman, of the Netherlands, was third overall at the end of the three-week race, which appears to have finished just in time with rising numbers of coronavirus cases in Italy and new restrictions announced in the country.

Geoghegan Hart’s Ineos Grenadiers teammate Filippo Ganna won Sunday’s stage in a time of 17 minutes 16 seconds.

Like Hindley, Geoghegan Hart, who finished 13th on the stage, had expected only to play a support role for his Ineos team leader Geraint Thomas but when the Welshman crashed out, everything changed.

Tao Geoghegan Hart rides just ahead of Jai Hindley, who is looking ahead. Both are straining
Geoghegan Hart and Hindley took their battle down the wire.(AP: Marco Alpozzi)

“It’s incredible,” he said.

“It was impossible for me to even think about winning the Giro when we started in Sicily.

“All of my career I have dreamt of being top 10 or top five in a race like this. During the ITT [individual time trial] my DS [sports director] told me I was faster than Jai Hindley.

“When my DS told me not to take risks in the final part, I understood I was close to the victory.”

AAP



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Giro set for nail-biting finale as Aussie leads by less than a second


The Londoner was only Ineos-Grenadiers’ plan B when the Giro started, but then-team leader Geraint Thomas was forced to abandon early in the race following a crash, and the 24-year-old Geoghegan Hart quietly moved up the general classification.

Hindley was equally excited to have the race leader’s pink jersey on his back ahead of the final day.

“Incredible, I have no words. From an early age I dreamed of wearing the maglia rosa, it’s a huge honour for me, I still don’t believe it. Tomorrow I’ll give my best in the individual time trial,” he said.

Tao Geoghegan Hart is favoured to win the final stage.Credit:AP

Hindley’s Sunweb teammate Wilco Kelderman, who started the 190-kilometre ride from Alba in the race leader’s maglia rosa jersey, finished 1:35 behind and now lies 1:32 off the pace after dropping out when Geoghegan Hart’s Australian teammate Rohan Dennis set a high tempo in the first ascent to Sestriere.

Joao Almeida, who lost the overall lead on the 18th stage across the snow-covered Stelvio pass on Thursday, attacked from the group of chasers that featured Dutchman Kelderman and double champion Vincenzo Nibali in the finale, to end the stage in fourth place behind Dennis.

The stage had been due to go through the punishing Col d’Agnel and Col d’Izoard in France, but restrictions due to the COVID-19 crisis meant the organisers were forced to change the route and have the peloton climb up to Sestriere twice.

Kelderman and most of the big guns were dropped in the first ascent to the ski resort as Dennis accelerated, taking Geoghegan Hart and Hindley in his slipstream.

The Dutchman was hovering 40 seconds behind at the top and lost even more time on the last ascent, where Hindley attacked repeatedly but failed to drop Geoghegan Hart.

Sunday’s time trial is a 15.7-kilometre effort from Cernusco sul Naviglio to Milan.

It will be the first time a grand tour is decided between a race leader and second-placed rider separated by less than a second before the final stage.

Should Geoghegan Hart prevail, it will be the second grand tour in a row in which a rider has won the race on the last competitive day, after Tadej Pogacar blew away fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic on the final time trial of the Tour de France in September, one day before the largely processional final ride to Paris.

Reuters

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Australian cyclist Jai Hindley leads the Giro d’Italia


Australian cyclist Jai Hindley is going into the final stage of the Giro d’Italia as the race leader, with a lead of less than one second.

After taking the lead of the race during stage 20 overnight, Hindley goes into Sunday’s time trial with just a 0.86 second gap to British rider Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Geoghegan Hart narrowly beat Hindley in a sprint finish to take the win during stage 20, but the Australian was able to hold on to the slender overall lead.

Hindley took the leader’s pink jersey off his Sunweb teammate, Wilco Kelderman, who finished 1 minute and 35 seconds behind.

Hindley told reporters on Saturday that wearing the pink jersey — known as the Maglia Rosa — was a childhood dream come true.

“Incredible, I have no words. From an early age I dreamed of wearing the Maglia Rosa, it’s a huge honour for me, I still don’t believe it,” he said.

“Tomorrow I’ll give my best in the individual time trial.”

Hindley threw himself into contention for the overall race win after crossing the line first during stage 18.

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Jai Hindley wins stage 18, almost crashes trying to put on jersey in Giro d’Italia.

It is the first time a Grand Tour will be decided in the final stage with less than a second between the leader and second-placed rider.

The smallest winning margin ever in one of cycling’s Grand Tours was in 1984 when France’s Eric Caritoux won the Vuelta a Espana by just six seconds over Alberto Fernandez.

The nail-biting finale will be a 15.7 kilometre sprint from Cernusco sul Naviglio to Milan in Italy’s north.

Geoghegan Hart, who rides for Ineos-Grenadiers, will be more favoured to complete the stage faster than the Australian.

“I’m very happy for myself, for my team and for the Giro — today was a beautiful day,” Geoghegan Hart said after stage 20.

“Tomorrow’s time trial will be a matter of legs, the route is short, I hope to have a good day and a bit of luck, then we will see.”

Should Hindley defeat his British rival into Milan on Sunday he will be the first Australian to win the Giro d’Italia and just the second after Cadel Evans to win a Grand Tour.

It has been a successful race for Australian riders, with Ben O’Connor winnning stage 17.

Reuters



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Giro d’Italia: Tao Geoghegan Hart wins stage 20 to share overall lead


Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart sealed victory in stage 20 at the Giro d’Italia to move into a share of the overall lead with one day remaining.

The 25-year-old Ineos Grenadiers rider, 15 seconds back in third going into the penultimate stage, edged out Australian Jai Hindley and the pair are now tied.

Sunweb’s Wilco Kelderman, who took the lead on stage 18, dropped to third.

Sunday’s final stage is a 15.7km individual time trial from Cernusco sul Naviglio to Milan.



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Giro d’Italia race director ‘very upset’ by riders’ safety protest on stage 19


Riders are being transported on team buses

The Giro d’Italia race director says he was “very upset” by cyclists’ safety protests and promised “consequences”.

Riders completed more than half of stage 19 on their team buses after concerns were raised over racing in heavy rain, risking riders’ health.

Organisers agreed with the Professional Cyclists’ Association (CPA) to start 124km from the finish in Asti.

Czech rider Josef Cerny of CCC won the stage, while Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart remains third overall.

BBC Sport understands organisers RCS were mystified by the action because it said riders had not voiced concerns to the race management earlier. Instead, it said, a few riders approached them 10 minutes before the start of the 258km race from Morbegno.

The CPA, which represents the cyclists, said on Friday before the stage began: “The riders’ health is the priority, especially in this Covid period.”

It added: “Reducing the stage will not diminish the show, but will allow the immune defences of the riders not to be put at greater risk.”

However, race director Mauro Vegni told Eurosport: “[I’m] very upset about the way it’s happened. It isn’t the right way to resolve these issues.

“I think there are going to be words with lawyers – I don’t think it’s respectful to the race or people who want to watch.

“Today the parcours [course] was lovely. There will be consequences because of the behaviour of the riders.”

Competing in heavy rain can cause riders, whose immune systems may already be compromised by excessive exertion, to become unwell as dirt and bacteria from the road is sprayed through the peloton.

Many riders were concerned it would increase the risk of contracting coronavirus.

Vegni added: “The stage was announced a year ago. A rainy October day is not an unusual thing and it is 13C, so not cold. There’s no excuse not to do it.”

The stage initially took place under heavy rain in the neutral zone before the official start, where riders were stopped and the team’s buses were called to pick them up.

The peloton was eventually dropped off in Abbiategrasso, where, in drying conditions, a breakaway of 14 riders, including Britain’s Alex Dowsett of Israel Start Up Nation, stayed ahead of the peloton for the duration.

Cerny broke clear of the break and held them off to cross the finish line 18 seconds ahead of Belgium’s Victor Campenaerts of NTT and Italian Jacopo Mosca of Trek-Segafredo.

The peloton rolled in 11 minutes later after Bora-Hansgrohe called off their attack for Slovak Peter Sagan part-way through the stage.

Sunweb’s Dutch rider Wilco Kelderman continues to lead the overall standings by 12 seconds from Australian team-mate Jai Hindley, and 15 seconds from Geoghegan Hart of Ineos Grenadiers.

Meanwhile, Vini Zabu-KTM’s Italian rider Matteo Spreafico has left the Giro, having being suspended by the UCI – cycling’s world governing body – after two adverse analytical findings for the prohibited substance enobosarm.

“The rider has the right to request and attend the analyses of the B samples,” said a UCI statement.

“In accordance with the UCI anti-doping rules, the rider has been provisionally suspended until the adjudication of the affair.”

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Giro d’Italia 19th stage shortened due to rain: Italian broadcaster Rai



FILE PHOTO: Cycling – Giro d’Italia – Stage 11 – Porto Sant’Elpidio to Rimini, Italy – October 14, 2020 General view of the action as spectators wearing protective face masks cheer REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

October 23, 2020

(Reuters) – The Giro d’Italia’s 19th stage from Morbegno to Asti has been shortened due to bad weather in the northern part of Italy, Italian broadcaster Rai reported on Friday.

Rai said that riders would start the stage amid rain and cold weather before getting on their team buses to travel south for around 100-110km. They will then complete the final 150km of the stage as scheduled on their bikes.

Dutchman Wilco Kelderman took over as leader of the Giro d’Italia as the fearsome Stelvio climb blew the race apart during a brutal and mesmerizing stage 18 battle on Thursday.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)





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Australian cyclist Jai Hindley claims 18th stage of Giro d’Italia, puts himself in contention to win overall race



Australian Jai Hindley has thrust himself into contention to win a wide-open Giro d’Italia after taking victory in an extraordinary 18th stage that saw the rider from Perth move into second place overall, just 12 seconds behind his teammate Wilco Kelderman.

Riding the race of his life, just as his fellow West Australian Ben O’Connor had done 24 hours earlier when winning the 17th stage, Hindley, who had been riding in support for his Sunweb team leader Kelderman, instead took centre stage when the Dutchman cracked.

The ‘Queen stage’, a 207-kilometre monster between Pinzolo and Laghi di Cancano and taking in the iconic snow-covered Stelvio pass, ended up as a dramatic duel between two unexpected ‘domestiques’, Hindley and Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart.

They had started the day with Hindley third and Geoghegan Hart fourth in the general classification.

Yet in the final push for the line after more than six hours in the saddle and having stalked the Briton for kilometre after kilometre, the 24-year-old Australian burst past in the final metres to seal his first-ever Grand Tour win.

“Winning here is such an incredible feeling,” said an overjoyed Hindley.

His winning bonus points ensured Hindley, whose biggest claim to fame before Thursday was winning this year’s Herald Sun Tour, moves three seconds ahead of the Briton in the GC standings.

More than that, Kelderman’s struggles in battling home fifth on the stage meant that though the Dutchman still took over the lead of the race from Portugal’s long-time frontrunner João Almeida, his teammate Hindley is now only a tantalising 12 seconds behind him.

Almeida, who had been leading the race for 15 days, had a calamitous stage, finishing 4:51 behind Hindley, to drop back to fifth overall.

Even though only 1:19 covers the first four in the race — Kelderman, Hindley, Geoghegan Hart and Spain’s Pello Bilbao — Team Sunweb will now have a powerful double hand to play.

Although Kelderman may remain favourite with his time trialling expertise likely still to prove decisive come Sunday’s final stage, Hindley, looking so powerful in this final week, is in a superb position to take advantage of any slip-ups.

Wardrobe malfunction almost costs Hindley dearly

Hindley’s biggest danger during his brilliant ride had seemed to have come from himself.

At one point on the ascent, he struggled to put on his jacket in the cold, almost crashing his bike before managing just to wrestle his arm in.

But neither he, nor Kelderman behind, could zip up their jackets before the top so that when they set off on to the high-paced descent, they were exposed to the biting cold with the wind chill putting the temperatures below zero.

Two other Australians played a big part in the drama. First, O’Connor, for the third day running, made an audacious break before being hauled in while Rohan Dennis put the power down for his Team Ineos teammate Geoghegan Hart on the Stelvio.

The biggest surprise came when Kelderman was dropped with nearly 10km of the climb left, leaving Hindley with the dilemma whether to support his ailing teammate or pursue the Team Ineos pair.

Kelderman knew Hindley had made the right decision. “It was the hardest stage of my life,” admitted the Dutchman. “We had a goal and we achieved it. Wearing the Maglia Rosa is a dream after so many difficult years.”

AAP



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Giro d’Italia rider Fernando Gaviria tests positive to coronavirus, as race faces uncertain fate


Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria has become the latest cyclist to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia after testing positive for the coronavirus as the race heads toward an uncertain conclusion this weekend.

A staff member for Team AG2R La Mondiale was the only other positive out of 492 tests carried out on Sunday and Monday to coincide with the race’s second rest day, organisers RCS Sport said.

The race is scheduled to end on Sunday in Milan, the capital of the Lombardy region, which is putting in place a nightly curfew beginning on Thursday because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in an area already hit hard during the first wave of infections.

Two other stages in the final week of the race are also slated to ride through Lombardy.

Race director Mauro Vegni has said from the start that the race’s greatest achievement would be reaching the finish in Milan.

The three-week event was already rescheduled from its usual slot in May because of the pandemic.

Gaviria’s UAE Team Emirates said the rider “was immediately isolated following the test result and is feeling well and is completely asymptomatic”.

The team noted that Gaviria also had COVID-19 in March.

Gaviria has won five stages at the Giro during his career — four in 2017 and one in 2019, plus two stages at the 2018 Tour de France.

Overall contenders Simon Yates and Steven Kruijswijk had already been withdrawn from the race after testing positive, as had Australian standout Michael Matthews.

Yates’ Mitchelton-Scott team and Kruijswijk’s Jumbo-Visma team withdrew their entire squads last week following a series of positive results from the first rest day.

Team Emirates said all of its other riders and staff came back negative in the latest round of exams. The team added that its medical staff was “monitoring the situation closely and doing all they can to ensure that we can proceed safely”.

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Italy added another 10,874 confirmed coronavirus infections to its official toll on Tuesday.

The Government has implemented new restrictions to curb nightlife and socialising in hopes of slowing the resurging outbreak.

Another 89 people died, bringing Italy’s official COVID-19 death toll to 36,705, the second highest in Europe after Britain.

A face-mask wearing cyclist in a pink jersey sprays champagne after a Giro d'Italia stage.
João Almeida still holds the leader’s pink jersey with five days left in the Giro d’Italia.(AP/LaPresse: Marco Alpozzi)

Portuguese rider João Almeida leads the race by 17 seconds ahead of Dutch rival Wilco Kelderman.

Team Bahrain-McLaren’s Jan Tratnik earned his first stage victory in a Grand Tour by winning the 16th stage, beating Australian rider Ben O’Connor by seven seconds at the end of the hilly 229 kilometre route from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli.

Neither of them had ever won a stage in a Grand Tour and both entered the final stretch together.

However, it was Tratnik who crossed the line first, with his arms outstretched and tears streaming down his face. O’Connor — riding for NTT Pro Cycling — thumped the handlebars in frustration.

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Giro d’Italia: Fernando Gaviria tests positive for second time this year


Fernando Gaviria is the fourth rider to test positive for coronavirus at this year’s Giro

UAE Team Emirates rider Fernando Gaviria has tested positive for coronavirus for a second time this year and is out of the Giro d’Italia.

The Colombian tested positive in the Giro’s latest round of testing, as did a Team AG2R La Mondiale staff member.

Gaviria also tested positive for Covid-19 at the UAE Tour in February.

He is the fourth rider to test positive at the Giro and will not start Tuesday’s 16th stage – therefore ruling him out of the remainder of the race.

His team said he was “immediately isolated” following the test result and is “completely asymptomatic”.

“All other riders and staff returned a negative test, and will undergo further testing today,” a UAE Team Emirates statement added.

“The team’s medical staff are monitoring the situation closely and doing all they can to ensure the we can proceed safely.”

Two teams – Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma – have already withdrawn from the three-week race because of positive cases in their camps.

Last week, one team called for it to end a week early, citing a “clearly compromised” coronavirus bubble.

EF Pro Cycling said on Sunday they wanted the race to end to avoid “a chaotic withdrawal on a team-by-team basis”.

The UCI refused their demand, saying race organisers have “committed to implementing the measures to secure the race bubble”.

Analysis

BBC Sport’s Matt Warwick

Giro organisers had breathed a sign of relief last week after the whole peloton and staff retested negative days after three riders and two teams left the race after contracting Covid-19.

While a further two positive tests might not seem too alarming, this is Gavaria’s second positive after he was one of the first riders to get coronavirus back in February – prompting a season shut-down until August.

The Colombian’s form has been poor at a race where he won four stages in 2017. During stage 11, in which Frenchman Araud Demare emulated that feat himself, Gavaria got into position to race and almost immediately sat up on his bike and let his rivals tear away in front of him, displaying an at-the-time perplexing level of lethargy.

The 26-year-old’s UAE-Team Emirates squad – who won the Tour de France in September – must now decide if it’s worth risking staying at the race at all after seeing one of their best athletes test positive for a second time.

After all, they, and all the other World Tour teams, have another Grand Tour to worry about, as the Vuelta a Espana gets under way on Tuesday – so far, say their organisers, under a clean bill of health.



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Ineos’ new leader steps up to claim Giro stage win


Kelderman looks the most likely to profit should Almeida falter. The Dutchman, 29, is only 15 seconds off the lead and has the most grand tour experience of the leading contenders. But Geoghegan Hart has long been tipped as a future GC star and the fact he was handed team leadership at the Giro and the Vuelta last year shows the esteem in which Sir Dave Brailsford holds him.

The race is wide open, with any number of riders still in with a shot of winning, including the veteran Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), who is only 32 seconds behind Geoghegan Hart, who was not getting carried away. “I’m behind on GC, but I really wanted to win a stage,” he said. “The plan here was to support Geraint for the victory and I believe that he would have been on the podium of this Giro or better.

“It’s been such an up and down race. We just have to show the Grenadier spirit we’re trying to foster in this team and keep bouncing back like we know we can.”

Meanwhile, at the Tour of Flanders, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) beat Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in a photo finish after 240 kilometres of racing.

The pair, who were the pre-race favourites, escaped up the road with 45 kilometres remaining, along with world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep). Alaphilippe, however, crashed spectacularly after clipping a motorbike, leaving the two cyclocross greats to fight it out in a thrilling finale.



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