BERGAMO, Italy,21 May (AP) — American cyclist Brandon McNulty won the 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday for his first victory in a Grand Tour while Bruno Armirail kept hold of the leader’s pink jersey as the race prepares for a dramatic and decisive final week.
McNulty, who rides for UAE Team Emirates, edged out Ben Healy and Marco Frigo at the end of the tough 195-kilometer (121-mile) route from Seregno to Bergamo.
“I’m stoked. This was my goal coming here,” McNulty said. “I wanted a stage win but I got sick in the time trial.
“I wanted to finish solo but luckily I managed to win even in a sprint … Let’s hope this win adds to the team’s motivation on GC with Joao Almeida.”
All three had been part of a large breakaway that went early in the stage. Healy attacked on the fourth and final classified climb and McNulty caught up to him on the descent, followed by Frigo with 10 kilometers remaining.
Frigo was dropped again on the unclassified climb shortly before the finish but the Italian’s superb descending skills saw him catch back up to the other two, with the finish line in sight, setting up the final sprint.
Geraint Thomas led a group of general classification riders across the line, almost seven minutes behind McNulty but 33 seconds ahead of Armirail.
That saw Armirail’s advantage over Thomas cut to one minute, eight seconds. Primož Roglič was two seconds further back.
“It’s been difficult to retain the Maglia Rosa,” Armirail said. “It was a hard stage with a lot of climbing and there was Einer Rubio at the front. He was likely to take the jersey so my teammates had to pace all along.
“Yesterday I didn’t realize what it was to take the Maglia Rosa but today, with the incredible support of the crowd, I’ve found out what it’s like. It’s huge and I’m delighted to stay in the lead on the rest day.”
The race has its second and final rest day on Monday before heading to the Dolomites and a brutal final week.
Three of the last six stages have been given the maximum difficulty rating of five stars and the week kicks off with one of them on Tuesday. There is more than 5,000 meters of elevation along the 203-kilometer (126-mile) route from Sabbio Chiese to Monte Bondone, including a top-category climb to the finish.
The Giro ends in Rome next Sunday.