Total suspense on the Giro: the first three of the Tour of Italy stand in 59 seconds in the general classification after the queen stage, won on Friday by the Colombian Santiago Buitrago, and before a time trial which will be decisive on Saturday in Monte Lussari.
At the end of a day without major palpitations, the Briton Geraint Thomas retained the leader’s pink jersey with 26 seconds ahead of the Slovenian Primoz Roglic who grabbed three in the last meters of the ascent to the Tres Cime di Lavaredo, the roof of this 106e edition from the top of its 2304 meters.
“I’m happy with the result, the legs came back. Tomorrow is all for the attack, ”said Roglic.
The third man, Joao Almeida, has lost some ground and is now 59 seconds behind Thomas. But the Portuguese from UAE continues to dream of interfering in the Mano a Mano announced between Thomas and Roglic, who seem the strongest.
The stage was won by Santiago Buitrago, survivor of the morning breakaway. He remained on a third place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and had already won the Giro last year.
“I had a difficult Giro on a personal level. Winning is the fruit of hard work and sacrifice. It was the right day to raise your arms,” said the runner from Bahrain.
The 23-year-old Colombian won ahead of Canadian Derek Gee, the revelation of this Tour of Italy where he slipped into a breakaway almost daily, always in vain so far: it’s already the fourth time that he finished second.
On paper, the day promised sparks, with five hellish climbs in the sublime landscape of the Dolomites, including the final ascent to the snowfields of the Tre Cime, where Eddy Merckx had taken eight minutes from the breakaways under a blizzard in 1968.
A mule track as a justice of the peace
But there was nothing legendary on Friday since the favorites were neutralized until the last two kilometers.
This is the moment that Roglic chose to place an attack that did not worry Thomas at all. The Welshman even countered the Slovenian a little further, but the latter managed the best finish to precede him on the line.
Behind, Thibaut Pinot took advantage of the failure of Lennard Kämna to gain a place. The Frenchman, who wears the blue jersey for best climber, is now sixth, 5:10 from the pink jersey.
Everything therefore remains to be done for the final victory, before the 18.6 km individual time trial on Saturday to the sanctuary of Lussari, the final justice of the peace before the finish the next day in Rome, at the end of a totally flat final stage.
The chrono, very close to the Slovenian border, promises to be dizzying on a narrow mule track which has just been paved. To reach the finish line, drawn at 1790 m above sea level, you will have to climb a slope with a frightening average percentage (12.1%) over 7.3 km.
Enough to make huge differences and to punish in minutes, the slightest lesser blow.
It risks bringing back bad memories for Roglic, who lost the Tour de France in 2020 at the Planche des Belles Filles after an uphill time dominated by Tadej Pogacar.
But the triple winner of the Vuelta wanted to be confident on Friday evening when he showed his intention to overthrow his Welsh rival to win his first Giro, at 33 years old.