Hindley wins toughest Giro stage, López stays in pink

BLOCKHAUS, Italy (AP) — Australian cyclist Jai Hindley won the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia atop the fearsome Blockhaus on Sunday but Juan Pedro López managed to keep hold of the leader’s pink jersey after the race’s toughest leg.

Hindley, who rides for Bora-Hansgrohe, edged out Romain Bardet and overall favorite Richard Carapaz in a sprint to the line at the end of an arduous day of climbing.

Mikel Landa and João Almeida also finished with the same time.

“I was just trying to survive as best I could, actually,” said Hindley, who was runner-up in the Giro in 2020. “I knew it was flattening out in the last k’s (kilometers) and there was a right hander before the finish with around 200 to go. I wanted to take the corner first and then just gave it everything to the line, and yeah here we are.

“It’s pretty incredible. It wasn’t the easiest year I had last year. I worked so hard to get back to the level to compete at the Giro and I’m at a loss for words honestly. It’s pretty amazing.”

López surprisingly kept hold of the maglia rosa as the Spaniard finished the 191-kilometer (119-mile) route from Isernia 1 minute, 46 seconds behind Hindley on a day in which several favorites lost time on the iconic final climb that had double-digit gradients along a series of hairpin bends leading to the line.

“This is wonderful for me, I don’t believe this moment,” the Trek–Segafredo rider said. “We need to enjoy every moment.”

López is 12 seconds ahead of Almeida now and 14 ahead of Bardet, with Carapaz just a second further back.

As well as the Blockhaus, the route also included the top-category climb to Passo Lanciano and two other categorized ascents on a day with 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) of climbing.

A nine-man breakaway led the stage for most of the day but they were caught and the peloton started the final climb to Blockhaus together.

Simon Yates was one of the favorites dropped early on and the British rider crossed the line 11 minutes behind Hindley with his right knee heavily strapped. He had sustained the injury on the fourth stage climb up Etna.

“Now that I’ve lost the race, it’s causing me a lot of problems. But that was not my only problem today, I really struggled in the heat again,” Yates said. “That’s how it goes. I gave my all and that’s it.

“I was hopeful of still being able to try and do something but I’ve been in a lot of pain since Etna. I’ve been trying to manage it as best as possible. Like I said, it was not my only problem today.”

Carapaz tried to attack several times in the final 5 kilometers but was unable to shake off his rivals for the stage win.

There was a worrying moment earlier in the day when Natnael Tesfatsion, who was leading the stage, crashed on the descent from Passo Lanciano. Tesfatsion misjudged a corner and somersaulted over his handlebars into the bushes.

However, the Eritrean swiftly received treatment from race doctors and was eventually able to continue.

The race has its second rest day on Monday before a 196-kilometer (122-mile) stage from Pescara to Jesi that is mainly flat in the first half along the Adriatic coast before three fourth-category climbs later in the day.

Whether Yates can fight back or even decides to continue remains to be seen.

The BikeExchange–Jayco rider was more than 11 minutes behind López in the overall standings.

“I’ll see what happens now, we have the rest day,” Yates said.

The Giro finishes on May 29 in Verona.

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