Giro d'Italia

Thomas De Gendt climbs to win on Stelvio, into fourth on GC; Purito increases overall lead

After almost 20,000 feet of climbing, Thomas De Gendt climbed onto the podium as winner of stage 20. Purito, Hesjedal still atop overall

Thomas De Gendt rode into history today – and smack into the GC picture – with a solo victory on the legendary Passo Dello Stelvio, the Cima Coppi, or highest point in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

De Gendt jumped four places into into fourth in the overall standing. After starting the day 5’40” back on the pink jersey Joquim Rodríguez (Katusha) and 5’27 behind Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), he now sits only 2’18” back.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” admitted the 25-year-old Belgian. “But all the pieces fell into place. I’ve ridden this climb 20 or 30 times in training, so to win on my own training mountain is fantastic.”

The top-three on GC remain the same, with Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) still in pink, but gaining another 14 seconds on next-placed Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) when he gapped the Canadian near the top.

Hesjedal now sits 31 seconds behind the Spaniard overall, leading into tomorrow’s 31.5km individual time trial in Milan.

He remains the favorite for the final maglia rosa going into the TT tomorrow as he’s the strongest of his rivals in the discipline. De Gendt is also well-placed to climb onto the final podium as he too is considered a stronger time trialist than the others.

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) remains third overall, but lost 12 seconds to Purito. He’s now 1’51” behind the leader.

De Gendt dropped the rest of the day’s break on the Mortirolo climb and held off the closing GC riders to the top of the dreaded Stelvio, with his gap hovering at about 5 minutes much of the way up. The leaders began to chip away at that inside 10km, but by then he was too far ahead.

He becomes the 11th different first-time grand tour winner in this year’s Giro. But this one may be just a little more special, coming as it did on the Queen stage that climbed almost 20,000 vertical feet with the highest finishing point ever in a grand tour.

He beat second place finisher and former Giro champ Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) by 55 seconds, with Mikel Nieve (Eskaltel-Euskadi) in third 2’49” back.

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) struggled again near the top, finally cracking with about 2km to go, losing 92 seconds on the Purito in the end, and dropping to 5th overall, 3’18” behind.