This article originally appeared on VeloNews.com
The GC battle of the Giro d’Italia is posed on a knife-edge with one stage remaining.
Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) took his second win of the race, beating Jai Hindley (Sunweb) in a sprint after the pair went clear in the final kilometers of the final climb of the day.
“There’s still one more day to go, and it’s extremely close. We’ll see what happens,” said the stage-winner. “I’m really happy. I was super comfortable. I knew it wasn’t for me to force it. I was focused on the stage. I knew we had a lot of time on the riders behind. It was up [Hindley] to make the difference. I knew that he couldn’t once he made his first attack.”
Hindley takes the pink jersey, but having started the day down on time on the young Sunweb rider, Geoghegan Hart is now level on time at the top of the classification with only the 15-kilometer time trial in Milano remaining.
“I’m speechless. It’s I’ve dreamed about this since I was a little boy. To wear the leader’s jersey in a grand tour is an incredible privilege. It’s not ideal to take it off, Wilco [Kelderman] but it’s nice to keep it in the team.”
Hindley acknowledged that Geoghegan Hart is the favored time-trialist, but has his eyes on the top of the podium.
“I’ll give it my best tomorrow and see how it goes. Regardless, I’m happy with how I’ve been riding and I’m super happy with how the team’s ridden this Giro.”
Overnight race leader Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) cracked midway on the stage’s second ascent of Sestriere and went backward fast to lose 1:35 overall.
After 20 stages and thousands of kilometers, a sub-20 minute time trial will decide the Giro d’Italia on Sunday.
How stage 20 unfolded
A break of over 20 riders went clear on the long roll to the mountains and gained over five minutes as Astana, Sunweb, and Ineos Grenadiers controlled the bunch.
The action began at the top of the first climb, when Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) attacked the break over the summit of the first to soon gain around 40 seconds gap as the break behind split apart, with a bunch of four leading the chase behind.
Quick-Step riders Pieter Sierry and Mikkel Honore, Einer Augusto Rubio and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier lead the chase.
Having lurked at the front through the first climb, Ineos started drilling the pace on the second climb as Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the first GC rider to start struggling.
Rohan Dennis (Ineos-Grenadiers) took to the front midway up the second climb and shattered the front group, with Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) soon falling back.
As Dennis continued motoring, only Geoghegan Hart and Hindley were able to hold his wheel as Kelderman, João Almeida, (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) began to cede ground.
Geoghegan Hart, Kelderman, and Hindley continued pressing on and scooping up the remnants of the escapees while Kelderman’s group fell over 40 seconds back through the course of the second climb as Almeida, Bilbao, and Pozzovivo led the pursuit.
Meanwhile, Rubio caught and dropped Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) to lead the stage alone, with the Italian and his teammate Pieter Serry chasing.
Heading in the final seven-kilometer haul to the Sestriere ski station, Rubio and the Deceuninck-Quick-Step pair were caught by Hindley, Geoghegan Hart, and Dennis, who had scooped up several riders from the breakaway. Kelderman and Co. were now well over 1:40 back in a group of 15 as their GC hopes evaporated.
Hindley scooped a valuable couple extra seconds by sprinting clear of Geoghegan Hart on the intermediate sprint at the base of the final climb. In a repeat of his formidable ride over the Stelvio on Thursday, Dennis continued to dictate the pace on the final climb until all but Geoghegan Hart, and Hindley remained.
As the pace in the GC group ratcheted up in a late chase, Nibali popped off the back with 4km to go as Kelderman, Almeida, and Bilbao continued to hang tough. Looking to rescue any time he could, Almeida accelerated away from his GC rivals to bridge up to Serry, who had fallen back from the front group as the Portuguese youngster soon built a 25-second advantage.
Hindley started the attacks with 3km to go, making a short burst before being bossed back into place by Dennis. Hindley went again and again in the next kilometer, shelling Dennis as Geoghegan Hart stalked his wheel, undroppable.
Dennis hauled himself back to the lead pair with 1.5km to go before Hindley again accelerated, dragging Geoghegan Hart with him.
The pair went into the final straight together with Geoghegan Hart launching the sprint from behind Hindley to snatch his second stage of the race by half a wheel.
Hindley gave a nod to Geoghagan Hart for the final move of the stage saying, “I was trying everything when I was attacking and I just couldn’t get rid of him. I thought I could beat him in the sprint but he was too strong.”