LAVARONE, Italy ( Associated Press) — Favorite Richard Carapaz maintained his razor-thin lead at the top of the Giro d’Italia after a 17th stage on Wednesday won by Colombia’s Santiago Buitrago for his first grand tour victory.
Ecuadorian Carapaz remains three seconds ahead of second-place Jai Hindley in 2020 — with only four days left in the race — since the two crossed the finish line together at the end of the 168-kilometre (104-mile) stretch from Ponte di Lego to Lavarone, which included almost 4,000 meters of ascents.
Mikel Landa finished six seconds behind the duo but moved up to third in the table, 1 minute and five seconds behind Carapaz. He overtook João Almeida, who fell behind on the second of the two top category climbs that occurred in the last 40 kilometers of the stage.
Shortly after crossing the finish line, Carapaz said: “The truth is that it has been a very tough stage. But in the end it was a positive day for the general classification. Tomorrow will be another important day. Until Verona I will have to be very focused”.
Buitrago, who finished with tears in his eyes after finishing second in the 15th stage, cried again on Wednesday, but this time with joy.
The 22-year-old Colombian recovered from a mid-day crash to return to the breakaway pack and then launched his charge to the top at the end of the second ascent, accelerating downhill for the final eight kilometres.
Buitrago, the Bahrain Victorious team, finished 35 seconds ahead of Gijs Leemreize — who had led the Monterovere climb — and 2:28 ahead of Jan Hirt.
“Winning a stage at the Giro is exceptional, especially after the big disappointment of second place on Sunday,” he said. The key to this success was patience on the climbs. I think I have ridden well. This victory is for my family in Colombia and for all the people who have supported me so far”.
Stage 18 on Thursday is due to have a final sprint after a flat circuit around Treviso at the end of a 156km route from Borgo Valsugana, which includes two category four climbs.
The Giro concludes on Sunday in Verona.