VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Canadian Derek Gee finished fourth in Stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday, his fourth top-five finish in his first Grand Tour event.
The 25-year-old from Ottawa, riding for the Israel-Premier Tech team, also has three second-place finishes and another fourth in the 21-stage, 3,489.2-kilometre race that ends Sunday in Paris.
Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey. 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 161-kilometre (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.
Gee and teammate Marco Frigo attacked on the first big categorized climb of the day. They maintained the breakaway until the bottom of the final climb when other riders began to attack.
Filippo Zana and Thibaut Pinot moved to the front with Zana winning their two-man sprint at the end. Frigo finished sixth on the day.
“Marco and I were both pretty cooked coming in to the final climb, so we just decided to sit on and try to follow." said Gee. "Maybe I went a little too deep trying to go with Zana and Pinot but I’ve already been second three times in this race, so I thought that I might as well try today. At the end, the legs just gave out on me."
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.”
Gee stands 26th in the general classification standings, second behind Italy's Jonathan Milan in the points race and fifth in the King of the Mountains standings.
With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome on Sunday, 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 on Friday is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 183-kilometre (114-mile) leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial on Saturday.
-- With files from The Associated Press.
The Associated Press