SAN DANIELE DEL FRIULI, Italy (AP) — Jan Tratnik earned his first stage victory in a Grand Tour by winning the 16th leg of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday, and João Almeida held onto the pink jersey.
Tratnik, a Slovenian rider with the Bahrain–McLaren team, beat Ben O’Connor by seven seconds at the end of the hilly 229-kilometer (142-mile) 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 thumped the handlebars in frustration.
“I attacked so far from the finish and the last climb was very hard,” the 30-year-old Tratnik said. “I didn’t think I could do it, but in the end, it was a perfect day.
“We are close to the Slovenian border so today my brother and my girlfriend were here. Five hundred meters from the finish I saw my girlfriend and I found some extra energy that allowed me to win.”
Enrico Battaglin was third, 1:14 behind his Bahrain–McLaren teammate.
All three were part of a large breakaway of 30 riders who escaped early in the stage on the first of six classified climbs.
Tratnik launched a decisive counterattack on the second of three finishing circuits over the Monte di Ragogna and appeared to be on his way to a solo attack before O’Connor caught up to him on the last ascent.
Almeida led the group of overall favorites, nearly 13 minutes after Tratnik, and increased his lead slightly after attacking in the final two kilometers (1.2 miles).
The Portuguese cyclist, who rides for the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, is 17 seconds ahead of Wilco Kelderman.
“Sometimes the best defense is to attack,” Almeida said. “In the end I was feeling good and I attacked, gaining a few seconds. It went well.”
Jai Hindley is third, 2:58 behind Almeida.
Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria withdrew from the race before the start of the stage after becoming the latest cyclist to test positive for the coronavirus.
Wednesday’s 17th stage is a mountainous 203-kilometer (126-mile) leg from Bassano del Grappo to Madonna di Campiglio. The route features four classified climbs, three of which are the highest category.
The race was rescheduled from its usual May slot because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Giro ends on Sunday with an individual time trial in Milan.
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