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Wilco Kelderman took the pink jersey on Thursday in the queen stage of the Giro d'Italia.
The Sunweb climber defends a lead of approximately 12 seconds over his teammate Jai Hindley and 15 seconds over INEOS rider Tao Geoghegan Hart in the last three stages.
The Australian Hindley took the day win and thanks to the bonus seconds remains just ahead of the Brit Geoghegan Hart as number two in the rankings.
Kelderman crossed the line in fifth place with just over two minutes of those two.
João Almeida has lost the lead in the general classification after fifteen stages in pink.
The Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider had to release on the penultimate climb of the very tough eighteenth stage and lost almost 5 minutes.
There are three more stages waiting for the riders in the Giro.
On Friday there will be a long, flat stage, on Saturday there will be a lot of climbing to Sestrière and on Sunday the round ends with an individual time trial to Milan.
Top-10 on Stage 18 of the Giro
Avatar Author moment of places 14: 37 - October 22, 2020
Ploeg Kelderman takes control
Kelderman's teammates kept the pace high in the initial phase of the 207 kilometer long queen stage, so that a leading group with ten riders never got a big lead.
On the penultimate climb, the no less than 25 kilometers long Stelvio, the escapees were caught one by one.
Rosette wearer Almeida immediately had a hard time on the Stelvio and the young Portuguese had to release quickly.
More and more favorites could not keep up with the pace, until four men remained: Sunweb riders Kelderman and Hindley and the INEOS duo Geoghegan Hart and Rohan Dennis.
At that time, Kelderman was virtually in the pink jersey, but had to let the other three go.
With a delay of about 40 seconds, he reached the top of the snowy Stelvio.
The new GC after Stage 18 #Giro
Avatar Author moment of places 14: 38 - October 22, 2020
Kelderman keeps the gap stable on the final climb
Time trialist Dennis drove fast in the descent and the short flat part to the final climb, increasing the gap with Kelderman to 1.40 minutes.
At that moment, Kelderman was virtually one minute ahead of Hindley and Geoghegan Hart.
At the foot of the 9 kilometer long final climb, Kelderman was passed by Pello Bilbao and Jakob Fuglsang, who finished third and fourth in the stage result.
Still, Kelderman managed to get back on the final climb and kept the gap stable around 1.40 for a long time.
In the final kilometers he lost about half a minute, but he was only just enough left.
The 29-year-old Veenendaler is therefore very likely to become the first Dutch winner of a big round after Tom Dumoulin, who won the Giro in 2017.
See also: View the rankings of the Giro d'Italia with Kelderman in place 1