Primoz Roglic finished first among the favorites in the queen stage of the Giro d'Italia on Friday. The Slovenian of Team Jumbo-Visma appeared unable to follow the rosette jersey wearer Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) on the steep final climb. After a fierce final sprint, however, the second-placed rider in the general classification took a few seconds off Thomas’ lead. Roglic will start Saturday's crucial climbing time trial 26 seconds behind the leader.
The peloton, which had thinned out significantly, didn't appear to be particularly eager for action on the Passo Giau. No fewer than six riders from Team Jumbo-Visma made their presence felt in a group that had grown to 25 riders. Rohan Dennis and Durangoan Sepp Kuss remained close to stage leader Roglic as the pace picked up toward the end of the race.
When they hit the 18% gradients, Roglic attacked without hesitation. Only classification leader Thomas was able to follow Roglic. Once again, the duo proved to be evenly matched. Thomas appeared too strong for Roglic as the finish line drew closer, but the 33-year-old refused to back down. He overtook the Briton and eventually gained three seconds. Colombian Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) won the stage in 5 hours, 28 minutes and 7 seconds.
“It has been two beautiful days in the Dolomites. But the most important day is tomorrow,” Roglic said. “As a team, we can look back on a good day. In the end, I had the legs to try something. I enjoyed the massive support at the side. It's great to pass so many enthusiastic supporters. I expect it to be a madhouse again tomorrow. Maybe that support, combined with good legs, can lead to something good. We have been working toward the last part of this race, and tomorrow will be decisive. I will do my best, give everything and try to get energy from the fans' support. It promises to be a challenging but exciting day.”
“This Giro is now approaching its absolute boiling point,” said Sports director Arthur van Dongen. “As it looks now, tomorrow will be a game of seconds. Thomas and Primoz are currently on equal footing. We would have liked to get the last four bonus seconds, but we are happy with how the stage ended. We will start tomorrow with confidence. Hopefully, the fans will give Primoz even more energy and fighting spirit than he already has. It was great to see how many Slovenians were cheering him on today already. We believe in the highest attainable.”
Kuss ended up finishing 12th on the stage, 1:03 behind Roglic. The result helped him move up one place in the GC into 15th out of the 125 riders. Kuss is 12:30 behind Thomas’ leading time of 81:55:47.