PASSO FEDAIA, Italy: Jai Hindley took a huge step toward winning the Giro d’Italia on Saturday after snatching the overall lead from Richard Carapaz in the final kilometers of the gruelling penultimate stage in the Dolomites, won by Italian Alessandro Covi.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Hindley all but ensured that he would win his first Grand Tour after a dazzling raid at the end of the mountainous, 168km 20th stage which left him one minute and 25 seconds ahead of Carapaz in the fight for the pink jersey.
The 26-year-old made his move with less than three kilometers remaining of the final Passo Fedaia climb and left Carapaz needing a miracle in Sunday’s final stage time trial in Verona.
“I knew this was going to be the crucial stage of the race. I knew there was a brutal finish and that you could make a difference,” said the 26-year-old.
“We just stayed patient, saved our energy until today and, you know, actually it was perfect. “I will die to defend the pink jersey.”
The Australian, who has won only stage nine in this year’s Giro, started the day just three seconds behind 2019 winner Carapaz and demolished the Ineos rider toward the summit of the Passo Fedaia.
Ecuadorian Carapaz visibly struggled to keep up with Hindley on a 14km climb at 7.6 percent and watched his slender lead vanish after a powerful and well-time attack by his rival.
Carapaz even finished behind Mikel Landa, who had appeared out of the running earlier in the day and is 1:51 off the pace in the general classification.
Hindley will be especially happy with the time gap between him and Carapaz as he struggles in time trials and lost the 2020 edition of the Giro on the final time trial stage.
He had come into that year’s climax in Milan level with Briton Tao Geoghegan Hart, who ended up winning the overall race.
Stage winner Covi claimed the biggest win of his career on home turf after a bold attack with over 50km to go.
The 23-year-old UAE rider went for it on the stage’s second big Passo Pordoi climb and held off Domen Novak to win his first Grand Tour stage.
Covi had finished second in last year’s 11th stage, and came in third at the top of Monte Zoncolan three stages later.
“Last year we went close a couple of times, this year I wanted to win a stage, but I had to help (Joao) Almeida so my chances for winning were few and far between,” said Covi.
“Unfortunately Joao caught Covid and we were left bare for the final three stages, so we wanted to take home at least one of them for the team.”
Hindley should seal his win on Sunday in Verona, where the race will climax at the famous ancient Roman Arena at the end of a 17.4km time trial.