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Sunday’s stage 15 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia got underway after a display by a fleet of fighter jets at the stage’s start at Base Aerea Rivolto. Five hours later, Team Sunweb attacked the peloton with all the precision of a guided missile.
The German outfit detonated the GC Sunday, moving Wilco Kelderman to within 15 seconds of João Almeida’s pink jersey. As a bonus, Australian climber Jai Hindley leapfrogged from 10th on GC up to third place overall.
Although the team’s massive move on the climb to Piancavallo didn’t land Kelderman the overall lead, the Dutchman is well within striking distance of the lead. He has momentum on his side after Almeida was dropped on the massive climb.
“We’ve been holding back a bit through the week, being a bit conservative just to be ready for a big day today,” explained coach Luke Roberts. “After yesterday’s time trial we were still in a good position inside a minute from the pink jersey, so we wanted to have a go at it today and see if we could take time back.”
Kelderman had one of the standout rides of the GC group on the lumpy time trial Saturday to limit his losses to his young Portuguese rival, who finished 16 seconds faster over the 34-kilometer course.
Almeida’s time trial gains were evaporated and reversed Sunday as Sunweb launched its move with Sam Oomen, Chris Hamilton, and Hindley on the grinding 10 kilometers to Piancavallo. The mass of white jersey on the front of the bunch cranked the pace to a notch that cracked handfuls of the GC group, and all Kelderman had to do was follow.
“Even on the last climb, and all day, we rode on the front,” Kelderman said. “Everyone was super strong and I only needed to just follow my guys – it’s crazy what they did today. Jai, everyone, it’s unbelievable. Such a strong team. We just missed the leaders’ jersey, but the ride we did was crazy, so yeah, we can be really happy.”
Having stripped the lead group down to less than 10, Hindley landed the killer blow, kicking clear with 7km remaining to leave only stage-winner Tao Geoghegan Hart and Kelderman on his wheel while Almeida cracked behind.
“Jai finished it off exceptionally. Basically, just pacing Wilco to the finish line,” Roberts said. “The stage win or the pink jersey would have been a nice bonus today but the goal ultimately was just to get some time back on the pink jersey and try to take time on other GC competitors, and that we’ve definitely achieved.”
Kelderman will be going into Monday’s rest day straining at the leash to hit the high mountains in week three after seeing Almeida only just scrape through the race’s first major climbing test. Provided the disaster-prone Dutchman stays upright through what could be an attritional week of foul weather in the Alps, he’s all set for his best opportunity at grand tour victory yet.
“You never know, it’s the Giro, anything can happen, that’s the beauty of it,” Hindley said when asked about his teammate’s GC prospects.
It could swing either way for Sunweb, but right now, the trajectory is upward.