Team Sunweb’s Australian Jai Hindley won Thursday’s gruelling Giro d’Italia 18th stage on the Stelvio climb in the northern Italian Alps ahead of Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart.
Hindley’s Dutch teammate Wilco Kelderman struggled on the final two climbs but took the overall leader’s pink jersey three days before the race finishes in Milan.
Kelderman took the lead from Portugal’s Joao Almeida of Deceuninck Quick-Step who had been in pink for more than two weeks since stage three in Sicily.
Three riders are battling at the top of the overall standings with Hindley 12 seconds behind his teammate and Geoghegan Hart third 15sec off the pace.
Almeida drops to fifth place after finishing the stage in 48th position.
Hindley and Geoghegan Hart outpaced Kelderman with 8km to go towards the summit of the snow-capped Stelvio at an altitude of 2,758m.
Kelderman was overtaken by Spaniard Pello Bilbao and Dane Jakob Fuglsang on the final 8.7km climb with a gradient of 6.8 percent to the Cancano Lakes.
It was a first WorldTour success for Hindley, 24, who had already impressed last Sunday at Piancavallo in the Dolomites.
Friday’s 19th stage returns to the plains with a 253km run from Morbegno to Asti in Piedmont.