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Thomas celebrates 37th birthday by retaining Giro d’Italia lead; Roglic into 2nd

106th Giro d'Italia 2023 - Stage 18

VAL DI ZOLDO - PALAFAVERA, ITALY - MAY 25: (L-R) Geraint Thomas of The United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers - Pink Leader Jersey and Primož Roglič of Slovenia and Team Jumbo-Visma compete in the chase group during the 106th Giro d’Italia 2023, Stage 18 a 161km stage from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo - Palafavera 1514m / #UCIWT / on May 25, 2023 in Val di Zoldo - Palafavera, Italy. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

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VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy -- Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey during Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.

“The legs have been good,” Thomas said. “Need to enjoy these moments.”

Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 100-mile route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale - including an uphill finish.

Thomas - the 2018 Tour de France champion - leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.

“It’s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn’t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn’t easy. ... I just want to be consistent until the end.”

Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.

With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history - beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.

However, Thomas will still be tested over the next two days.

Stage 19 is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 114-mile leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial.