Giro d’Italia 2020: Australia’s Ben O’Connor clinches first Grand Tour stage as Joao Almeida closes on glory

Ben O’Connor finally claimed his first ever Grand Tour stage win with a huge solo attack on the Madonna di Campiglio on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia, one day after being denied in San Daniele del Friuli.

The Australian, part of a day-long breakaway across the 202km stage, kicked with 8km to go in the Italian Dolomites and made a massive solo feat to take the top spot after settling for second yesterday to a Bahrain-McLaren rider. This is the first stage win for the South African team, NTT, in three years.

Hermann Pernsteiner fought with determination to chase O’Connor but failed to close down the gap to finish 31 seconds behind. However, this puts the Austrian up four places to 11th overall after he gained 4mins and 40 seconds on the general classification contenders.

Ilnur Zakarin and Thomas de Gendt, who were unable to respond to O’Connor’s attack on the steepest section of the Madonna di Campiglio, battled it out for the final podium spot, with de Gendt coming out on top whilst the maglia rosa group dragged behind.

De Gendt had a combative day overall, incessant at the front of the race for the majority of the stage, setting plenty of attacks and earning his third place.

With snow and coronavirus restrictions likely to re-route the upcoming mountain stages, those that were hoping to take Joao Almeida’s place in the maglia rosa missed their chance on this stage, with the Portuguese rider coming across the line with the rest of the general classification favourites.

Almeida keeps the top spot for an incredible 15th day for Deceuninck-Quick Step in his Grand Tour debut, leading by 17 seconds on Wilco Kelderman, whilst Jai Hindley sits in third. Brit Tao Geoghegan Hart from Ineos Grenadiers remains in fourth.

In the mountain classification, Ruben Guerreiro of EF Pro Cycling overtook Giovanni Visconti for the maglia azzurra, taking the King of the Mountain points on the first two mountains in the stage – the Forcella Valbona and Monte Bondone – to finish 50 points ahead.

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