After taking a back seat over the last few days, SA team Dimension Data again made a charge at the front of the peloton on Wednesday, with Spanish rider Omar Fraile taking eighth place on stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia.
Fraile formed part of a 25-man break with less than 50km remaining, along with South African teammate Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot.
He eventually crossed the line as part of a chase group, 24 seconds behind Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) who won the 219km leg between Tirano and Canazei.
It was the SA-registered squad’s 12th top-10 finish at the three-week contest, which comes to a close this weekend.
Fraile, who won the 11th stage of the race last week, held third place in the King of the Mountains classification, which was led by countryman Mikel Landa (Sky).
After producing a brave effort to keep Fraile in the hunt, Janse van Rensburg finished 16th on the stage, another 54 seconds off the pace, and Teklehaimanot was 19th, nearly a minute further back.
Janse van Rensburg climbed to 30th place in the general classification, though he was more than 50 minutes behind Dutch leader Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).
Meanwhile, the Di-Data team confirmed breakthrough rider Ryan Gibbons had been withdrawn from the race after the 15th stage.
The 22-year-old South African prospect finished among the top eight on all five sprint stages.
“With no sprint stages remaining, and to preserve his young talent, the decision was made by the team and rider to leave the race,” the team said in a statement.
“We can only look at Gibbons’ debut Grand Tour as a massive success.”
Thursday’s 18th stage will take the peloton 137km from Moena to Ortisei.