The Belgian finishes sixth on the toughest stage so far.
Monte Bondone, the daunting climb where Charly Gaul achieved immortality at the 1956 Giro d’Italia, returned at the race after 31 years, at the end of a brutal stage featuring five classified ascents and almost 6000 vertical meters.
Soudal Quick-Step entered the third week with just two riders, after illness forced Davide Ballerini to say goodbye to the race, but the Wolfpack spirit remained prevalent despite this new setback that left Pieter Serry and Ilan Van Wilder to sport the team jersey as the peloton took on one of this edition’s hardest stages.
Ilan, who in the past week has gradually moved up the general classification, impressed again with his resilience and fantastic determination on a day that disintegrated the bunch and brought more changes to the overall ranking. The 23-year-old Belgian, riding his first Giro d’Italia, remained with the big favourites until the steepest part of Monte Bondone, when a pair of accelerations at the front shredded the peloton, leaving in the lead a small group from which Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) took the win.
Part of an eight-man chasing group and feeling better and better with each kilometer, Van Wilder showed a maturity beyond his age, remaining calm and taking some long pulls that reduced the deficit. Despite this solid effort, he still had enough left at the finish to get out of the saddle and sprint for a remarkable sixth place against more seasoned opponents – a confirmation not just of his potential, but also of his upward trajectory at the Giro in the last couple of days, which has brought him just three minutes from cracking the top 10.
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