000 8TG4GT 1024x645 - Almeida still in pink as Tratnik wins Giro 16th stage
Team Bahrain rider Slovenia’s Jan Tratnik celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win in the 16th stage of the Giro d’Italia 2020 cycling race, 229 km between Udine and San Daniele, in Udine on October 20, 2020. (Photo by Luca Bettini / AFP)

Portugal’s Joao Almeida ensured he will wear the pink jersey for a 14th consecutive day after defending his overall race lead on Tuesday on the Giro d’Italia’s 16th stage won by Slovenian Jan Tratnik.

Tratnik, a 30-year-old Bahrain McLaren rider, crossed the line seven seconds ahead of Australian Ben O’Connor, after the run from Udine on the border with Slovenia.

Almeida finished nearly 13 minutes off the pace among the peloton of favourites but gained a valuable two seconds on Dutch rival Wilco Kelderman.

The race finishes in Milan on October 25.

“Sometimes the best defence is to attack,” said the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider. 

“In the end I was feeling good and I attacked, gaining a few seconds.”

000 8TF92F 1024x670 - Almeida still in pink as Tratnik wins Giro 16th stage
Pink jersey Team Deceuninck rider Portugal’s Joao Almeida (center) rides during the 16th stage of the Giro d’Italia. (Photo by Luca Bettini / AFP)

Almeida bared his teeth in the final kilometre push for the line at San Daniele del Friuli in north-eastern Italy, leaving Team Sunweb’s Kelderman second overall at 17sec.

Kelderman’s Australian teammate Jai Hindley, third overall, is nearly three minutes adrift, having finished first among the pursuing group which including two-time race winner Vincenzo Nibali of Italy.

It was a first Giro stage win for Tratnik, who outwitted his final breakaway rival O’Connor in the race for the line.

The 28-rider breakaway had formed in the first hour, but without any of the challengers for overall victory.

Tratnik dictates pace

Tratnik and Italian Manuele Boaro broke clear 60km from the finish, with the Slovenian shaking off the Astana Pro Team rider with 40km to go, building up a comfortable 40-second lead on the pursuing group.

O’Connor fought back on the final climb of three up Monte di Ragogna, with 13km to go, with Tratnik letting the Australian lead in the final kilometre before pulling clear for the line.

“I attacked so far from the finish and the last climb was very hard,” said Tratnik. 

“I didn’t think I could do it, but in the end, it was a perfect day. We are close to the Slovenian border so today my brother and my girlfriend were here. 

“500 metres from the finish I saw my girlfriend and I found some extra energy that allowed me to win”.

It was his ninth career win and second WorldTour victory after the prologue of the Tour de Romandie last year.

There were two positive tests for coronavirus before the stage.

Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria tested positive among a batch of 492 during Monday’s rest day. The second was an AG2R La Mondiale team employee.

“Gaviria went straight into isolation after the test result. He feels fine and is completely asymptomatic,” his UAE Emirates team announced.

“All the other riders and staff members returned negative tests and will have other tests today,” they added.

Gaviria, who also tested positive for the virus in February, had been 126th out of 138 overall.

Monday’s total of two positives was down on the first round of testing, when the virus was detected in riders Steven Kruijswijk and Michael Matthews along with six team personnel.

The day after the first tests, two teams quit the race — Kruijswijk’s Jumbo-Visma outfit and Michelton-Scott whose leader Simon Yates had stopped after developing minor symptoms.

Wednesday’s 17th stage hits the Dolomites with 203km from Bassano del Grappa to the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort, with three climbs including a final one over 12.5km.

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