Italian road champion Filippo Zana (Jayco-AlUla) pipped Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) to win stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia after both riders had spent a long, challenging day in the breakaway. Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) was third.
Behind the last remnants of the break, the GC battle heated up on the steep gradients of the finale, with riders dropping one-by-one as the road ascended in the Dolomites. Eventually, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) would leave their rivals in the rearview mirror, and when all was said and done, they had gained 21 seconds on main rival João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates).
Thomas, on his 37th birthday, maintained his grip on the race lead, with Roglič moving into second overall at 29 seconds back and Almeida now in third, 39 seconds down.
- The riders who formed the main break of the day initially jumped away on the first major climb of the stage, ultimately forming a seven-rider group after a little over 40 km of racing. From there, the pack gave the escapees some breathing room.
- The first-category Forcella Cibiana, crested just over 25 km from the finish, wore away at the legs in both groups, and then the decisive moves came on the second-category Coi climb, the penultimate ascent before a very short final Cat 2 to Val di Zoldo. Out front, Pinot and Zana surged ahead, with Barguil and Giro breakaway protagonist extraordinaire Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) trying to chase.
- Behind, in the GC group, Sepp Kuss went to work for his Jumbo-Visma teammate Roglič, and then Roglič put in a dig of his own. Together, their efforts put Almeida (and everyone else except Thomas and Eddie Dunbar of Jayco-AlUla) into the rearview mirror. Before long, Roglič and Thomas were on their own.
- Pinot and Zana maintained a healthy gap out front through the descent onto the final rise, and then battled it out on the finishing straight, where Zana proved fastest. Pinot did, at least, move into the lead of the mountains classification on the day.
- Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) helped his teammate Almeida and Dunbar too in their effort to keep the gap from getting too big, but Roglič and Thomas still gained significant ground on both of them as they hit the line together. Despite losing time to the leaders, Dunbar did move into fourth overall, as Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) finished further down the standings.
- Filippo Zana (Jayco-AlUla)
- Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) @ same time
- Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) @ :50
- Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) @ 1:03
- Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën) @ 1:24
- Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)
- Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) @ :29
- João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) @ :39
- Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla) @ 3:39
- Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) @ 3:51
Teamwork makes the dream work moment
- After Wednesday’s sprint stage, Thursday featured another profile with the potential for GC action, and the pink jersey hopefuls again clashed on the steep gradients of the final two climbs. This time, Almeida, the animator of stage 16, was the one caught out. Roglič, who seemed to struggle a bit on stage 16, had no such issues on Thursday, though he perhaps didn’t look at his best for much of the day based on his demeanor. That changed, however, when it really mattered, and he proved to be quite strong in the finale.
- Zana, in his first season at the WorldTour level, has his debut Grand Tour stage win. He did it by matching Pinot on the steep stuff and then out-kicking him in the finale. For Pinot it was another heartbreaking second place, as he was once again unable to go solo from the break and was again pipped at the line. This time, at least, there was less drama about cooperation and sandbagging.
- Teammates played a big role in the GC battle. Kuss’s efforts whittled away at the GC group substantially, teeing up Roglič beautifully to put (most of) his rivals to the sword. For Almeida, Jay Vine was valuable for a different reason, helping pace his teammate as Roglič and Thomas pressed on ahead. Dunbar benefited from that too.
- In the end, Roglič was unable to drop Thomas, whose 29-second lead isn’t a big one, but who has been unshakeable thus far. His team, however, did leave at least a bit to be desired on stage 18, with Kuss proving to be stronger on Thursday than any of Thomas’s lieutenants.
Landscape appreciation moment:
As challenging as stage 18 was, stage 19 will be way worse. It’s the final mass start mountain stage of the race, and it will put everyone to the test, with a total of five categorized climbs (all of them Cat. 2 or harder) including the high-altitude finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The last three climbs all feature gradients over 7 percent. It’s the sort of stage that could really punish anyone who falls behind early in the brutal finale. The break may or may not battle for the stage win, and either way, all eyes will be on Thomas, Roglič, and Almeida to battle on the steep gradients.
Stat of the day
Thanks to the Giro organizers, we now know that …
The talk of the day
Niccolò Bonifazio provided an early highlight on stage 18.
HBD Geraint Thomas!
Derek Gee has yet to win a stage, but he’s certainly gaining fans this Giro. There’s still another chance in the mountains to come.
David Lappartient says the UCI didn’t actually give Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov cycling’s “highest honor.”
The Giro peloton enjoyed a breather on Wednesday.
Grace Brown reflects on her season so far and what it’s like battling SD Worx day in and day out.