PIANCAVALLO, Italy (AP) — Tao Geoghegan Hart sprinted to victory at the end of the mountainous 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday, and João Almeida held onto the overall leader’s pink jersey but saw his advantage slashed.
Geoghegan Hart, a British rider with the Ineos Grenadiers team, was part of a trio of riders to reach the summit finish together and he edged out Team Sunweb pair Wilco Kelderman and Jai Hindley in a sprint.
The 25-year-old Geoghegan Hart pointed to the sky and shouted “Nico” as he crossed the line, in tribute to Nico Portal, the Ineos sports director who died in March.
“I can’t believe it … this team is extraordinary and we are all showing what we’re capable of stage by stage,” Geoghegan Hart said after earning Ineos’ fifth stage win of the race.
“Everyone knows what a great influence Nico Portal had on the team and for me in particular. Everyday we ride, we are remembering him.”
Almeida collapsed onto the ground with exhaustion at the end of the 185-kilometer (115-mile) leg from Codroipo to Piancavallo.
The Portuguese rider had made a huge solo chase on the first-category climb to the finish, desperate to hold onto the pink jersey.
Almeida’s hopes of doing that looked slim when he was dropped seven kilometers from the finish on the tough climb with gradients of 14%, but the 22-year-old Deceuninck-Quick Step rider managed to finish fourth and remain in the lead. However, his lead was cut to 15 seconds from Kelderman.
“It was a very hard stage, the three riders on the front on the final climb were too fast for me,” Almeida said. “I know my body and my limits, so I had to drop back.
“I’m happy to have managed to save the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey), once again thanks to my team.”
Hindley moved into third, 2:56 behind Almeida.
The day started at the Rivolto air base, home to the Frecce Tricolori aerobatic display team and they put on a show as the riders were preparing to set off.
Jhonatan Narváez, who won the 12th stage, and Nicolas Edet were forced to withdraw from the race after crashing.
The Giro has its second rest day on Monday before Tuesday’s 16th stage, a hilly 229-kilometer (142-mile) route from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli.
The race was rescheduled from its usual May slot because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Giro ends on Oct. 25 with an individual time trial in Milan.
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