Guerreiro wins Stage 9 of Giro, Almeida stays in pink

ROCCARASO, Italy (AP) — Ruben Guerreiro claimed his first victory in a Grand Tour by winning the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday, and Portuguese compatriot João Almeida held onto the overall leader’s pink jersey.

Guerreiro, who rides for the EF Pro Cycling team, beat Jonathan Castroviejo by eight seconds at the end of the mountainous 207-kilometer (129-mile) leg from San Salvo to Roccaraso.

Mikkel Bjerg was third, 58 seconds behind Guerreiro. All three had been part of an original eight-man breakaway group before Guerreiro and Castroviejo attacked on the summit finish, a first-category climb.

“Finally, what a great satisfaction after so many second places,” the 26-year-old Guerreiro said. “The team and I really deserved this victory. It was very difficult to get into the breakaway this morning and it’s extraordinary to win today.”

Guerreiro also revealed that he lives close to Almeida in Portugal and the two families are good friends.

Almeida, who rides for the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, is 30 seconds ahead of Dutch rider Wilco Kelderman, who leapfrogged Pello Bilbao into second spot in the overall standings.

“The team did an incredible job, they were perfect and it is thanks to my teammates that now I still wear the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey),” Almeida said. “I’m also happy for my compatriot Guerreiro, he deserves the win!”

It was a difficult stage for the peloton. The route featured two second-category and two first-category climbs on a very wet and cold day.

“I’m really cold now but the victory is really warm for me,” said Guerreiro, who was visibly shaking in the post-race interviews.

The expected battle between the overall favorites never really materialized and the time gaps were small but Kelderman and Jakob Fuglsang managed to gain a few seconds on their main rivals.

The Giro has its first rest day on Monday before Tuesday’s 10th stage, an undulating 177-kilometer (110-mile) route from Lanciano to Tortoreto.

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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