Zana Wins Stage 18 of Giro d’Italia
Thursday’s stage 18 from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo / Palafavera was a stage for the climbers and general classification favorites in the Giro d’Italia peloton as it featured two Category 1 climbs, two Category 2 climbs, and a single Category 4 hill. The riders rode north on a route that started in flat terrain before the riders reached the mountain range.
Maglia Rosa wearer Geraint Thomas (Ineos-Grenadiers) was celebrating his 37th birthday today. It would be interesting to find out if he would be able to defend his general classification lead and give himself the birthday gift of a stage victory in today’s race - and how he would fare compared to other general classification favorites such as UAE Team Emirates’ Joao Almeida and Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic.
The stage 18 route included more than 4000 vertical meters, and the riders started the stage in sunny and warm weather conditions. The start flag was waved from the race director car and attacks were launched immediately thereafter.
A front group featuring escapees that were aiming for a stage victory was formed in the first part of the stage. The quintet featured Aurelien Paret-Peintre (AG2R-Citroen), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Marco Frigo (Israel-PremierTech), Derek Gee (Israel-PremierTech), and Jayco-Alula’s Filippo Zana. The group formed a gap of approximately 45 seconds.
On the Category 1 Passo della Crosetta Ineos-Grenadiers were setting a fast pace in the main peloton group for their race leader Thomas, while many riders were dropping off the back.
Vadim Pronskiy (Astana) and Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) launched an attack to catch the front quartet. Menawhile, the front group had increased their advantage over the main peloton to 01:30 minutes, while the Pronskiy-Barguil duo were chasing 30 seconds behind them. The two front groups joined forces shortly before the start of the Category 4 Pieve d’Alpago.
Ineos-Grenadiers continued their thirsty work at the front of the main peloton group to drain the general classification competitors. Riders were carefully monitoring their hydration to maintain their peak performance.
With 60 kilometers left of today’s hot stage, the front group had increased their lead over the main peloton to 04:37 minutes. Ineos-Grenadiers were still setting a steady pace in the main peloton group to discourage other riders from attacking and to wear down their competitors.
As the Giro peloton approached Forcella Cibiana – the final Category 1 climb of the day (9.7 kilometers; 7.7% incline percentage) – UAE Team Emirates had taken over the pace setting in the main peloton group. They were closely followed by Ineos-Grenadiers, while Jumbo-Visma peculiarly kept their riders further back and showed no initiative – though their team was still at full strength as none of their riders had abandoned the Giro this far. Ineos-Grenadiers were three men down, while UAE Team Emirates had waved farewell to Alessandro Covi due to a fracture.
Pronskiy was dropped from the breakaway group on the Category 1 climb as Pinot was increasing the pace to wear down his opponents for the stage victory and climber classification points. In the main peloton Ineos-Grenadiers had returned to the front to control the pace for their GC leader and birthday boy Thomas.
Pinot and Zana formed a front duo as Gee and Barguil were dropped on the steep climb of up to 10%.
With 7.5 kilometers to go Roglic surprisingly showed good form and initiative. He attacked together with Jumbo-Visma teammate Sepp Kuss. Thomas, Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-Alula) and Thymen Arensman (Jumbo-Visma) followed.
Arensman proved unable to keep up with the GC favorites in front.
Further back, Almeida was chasing the Thomas-Roglic group supported by UAE Team Emirates teammate Jay Vine. They were joined by Einer Augusto Rubio (Movistar), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious), Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM), and Arensman.
With 5.7 kilometers left, Roglic attacked and only Thomas was able to follow. Later, Kuss rejoined the duo and took the lead.
With 1.3 kilometers left Kuss was worn down and Roglic and Thomas pressed on to gain valuable seconds on their GC competitors that were struggling further behind.
Meanwhile, at the front Pinot and Zana were still together with 500 meters left. It appeared the stage would be decided in a sprint between the two, with Zana the obvious sprint favorite.
Pinot opened the sprint, but Zana countered and won stage 18 with a powerful sprint effort after 161 kilometers of challenging racing.
Roglic and Thomas were approaching the finish line. Roglic led the duo across the finish line with Thomas glued to his rear wheel.
In the general classification Thomas remains Giro d’Italia leader and celebrated both his birthday and his race lead on the podium in beautiful and sunny weather conditions. Roglic moved past Almeida and is now second.
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