Thomas was able to follow up a late move by Primoz Roglic on the approach to Val di Zoldo when Joao Almeida dropped back, and the two worked together to keep the Portuguese back and shave 20 seconds off him, just enough to see Roglic move up. second.

With a mountain stage ahead and a mountainous time trial before Sunday’s final in Rome, Thomas leads Roglic by 29 seconds with Almeida 39 seconds behind.

Italy Giro CyclingThe Italian Filippo Zana celebrated his first stage victory in a Grand Tour (Massimo Paolone/AP)

“It was a decent day,” Thomas said. “To gain time on Almeida and not get dropped by Primoz, it was a good day, a solid day for sure. I felt pretty good, pretty much in control.

“Cousin, he likes to go hard, then take it easy, then go hard. I gave it a few spins, then I wasn’t sure how it felt. In the last two kilometers he pushed a lot again, he was super strong, but he was quite happy with how he was doing.

“Obviously it’s nice (to gain time) but Primoz had a bad day the other day and Almeida today. I just have to remain consistent day by day, climb after climb.”

The pink jersey crossed the line just under two minutes after Italian champion Zana raced away from Pinot, who for the second time in a week came within yards of a first career stage win at the Giro in his last appearance. in the race.

The leading duo had been part of a group of six strong breakaways allowed a lead of up to six minutes on the 161km stage to Oderzo, but eyes were always further back on the first of the hilly trio of stages that will decide who wears pink in Rome.

Donning the leader’s jersey on his 37th birthday with the aim of becoming the oldest winner in the race’s history, Thomas was clearly confident as his Ineos Grenadiers teammates set the pace at the front of the field. .

They quickly got rid of several cyclists as the road increased over the last 30 kilometers, first at Forcella Cibiana, then up the steep slopes of Forno di Zoldo.

There were questions about Roglic’s form after losing time on Tuesday’s Stage 16, a day when Almeida and Thomas pulled away, but as they neared the top of the penultimate climb, he held out his hand as his teammate at Jumbo-Visma, Sepp Kuss was guiding him. forward to launch an attack.

Thomas was fast on his wheel, but Almeida fell behind. Jay Vine did his best to guide his UAE teammate back, but was unable to fully close the gap after running too far on the short descent towards the two-kilometre climb to the finish, leaving Almeida alone. in the chase.

Irishman Eddie Dunbar finished just behind Almeida to move up to fourth overall, adding to the Jayco-Alula team’s celebrations after Zana’s win.

While there was yet to be a stage win for Pinot, similarly frustrated on stage 13 last week, the Frenchman at least moved up to seventh overall, four minutes and 43 seconds down.

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