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"On the San Maurizio ascent, I launched my attack, made the catch with around 350 meters to go and continued with my acceleration, which brought me this beautiful triumph."

Photo: ANSA - PERI / DI MEO / ZENNARO

GIRO D'ITALIA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
26.05.2016 @ 23:06 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) confirmed his status as one of the best stage hunters in the peloton as he added stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia to the two wins that he has already taken at the Tour de France. Part of a 24-rider breakaway, he dug deep on the two climbs in the finale to stay within touching distance and then regained contact with Moreno Moser (Cannondale) and his teammate Gianluca Brambilla a few hundred metres from the line before sprinting past the pair to take the win. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was never under pressure and easily retained his lead.

 

We have gathered several reactions

 

Matteo Trentin eyes classics success after taking another grand tour stage win

With around 700 meters to go of Giro d'Italia stage 18, the leading duo of Gianluca Brambilla and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) cruised on the streets of Pinerolo. Brambilla, already victorious at this edition, was second wheel, but even though the finish line was getting closer, he kept looking over his shoulder. The reason for that became clear for everybody in just a couple of seconds, as Matteo Trentin came hard from behind and caught them, before passing the two and taking the win, his first ever on Italian soil.

 

Up until that point, the longest stage of the Giro d'Italia (244 kilometers) saw a massive break get clear after 16 kilometers from the start, no less than 24 riders booking a place in the group that forged a hefty advantage of 14 minutes before the sole categorized climb of the day, Pramartino (4.3 kilometers, average gradient of 10.9%). There, Trentin did a strong pull at the front before his teammate launched an inspired attack to which only Moreno Moser had a response. Together, the two stayed clear on the descent and on the final climb of the stage, the sharp and cobbled San Maurizio (20% maximum slope), where Moser tried to distance Gianluca, but without any luck.

 

In the final kilometer, it looked like the stage win will be played in a two-man sprint, but the resilience Matteo Trentin showed, combined with the fact that Brambilla didn't pull anymore, sensing his teammate – who in the meantime attacked from the chasing group – had a chance to come back, led to a different outcome. As soon as he made the junction, the 27-year-old Italian, who's riding for Etixx – Quick-Step since turning pro, opened his sprint and brought the team's fourth victory at the 99th edition of the Giro d'Italia, following the two of Marcel Kittel in the Netherlands and the one of Gianluca Brambilla – who on Thursday finished third – in Arezzo.

 

After claiming his maiden win in Italy, Trentin sat down to talk about his special day and those crucial final kilometers, which saw him return to the front when nobody else was expecting it anymore:

 

"After helping Brambi on Pramartino, I just rode my own tempo, so I could survive and recover until the top. Then, on the downhill, I rode full gas and caught Rovny, Arndt and Modolo. Having Gianluca at the front, the pressure was on them, so I stayed at the back of the group and recovered. On the San Maurizio ascent, I launched my attack, made the catch with around 350 meters to go and continued with my acceleration, which brought me this beautiful triumph.

 

At the Corsa Rosa, he is sharing the room with Brambilla, and for them it was the second successful breakaway in which they both booked a place, after the one in stage 8, when Brambilla won following a huge work of Trentin. On Thursday, the former maglia rosa returned the favour and his countryman seized the day:

 

”This victory comes after a fantastic teamwork and a flawless tactic,” he said.

 

"We proved once again how great we get along together and how strong we are. For me, to get my first Italian win at the Giro, it's something really unbelievable, I couldn't have asked for more. This victory is for my family, who supports me all the time, and for the whole team. Now we have four stage victories, and what's great is that the race is still not over, so who knows what else can happen".

 

“I came to the Giro d'Italia with the objective to win a stage because I knew that my condition was really good from the Classics. But for some bad luck and some situation, you never really collect anything. Until now it was just empty. I was sure that sooner or later a stage for me would come. First I was thinking of Asolo, but it didn't go as I expected because Jungels attacked.

 

"Today was perfect. We knew the breakaway could go, but I have to say I found really good legs in the climb. I knew I had to go with my tempo and keep the best as I can a little under the limit to not explode, and keep the guys there. Brambilla was perfect in the front because he didn't have to pull because I was behind. Cannondale has to win, so all the stress was on them, not on us. I managed to go away in the last climb, I just put all the power I could on the pedals and it was just perfect.

 

"I started to believe I could win at 350 metres to go when I saw they weren't sprinting. Once I managed to get up to them, I just carried right on, I didn't ride a metre with them."

 

"My objective was to get to the top of Pramartino with a manageable gap, and I think it was around 40 seconds in the end. Then I did a good descent to catch up to Arndt, Modolo and Rovny. On the cobbled climb, I could see they weren't any stronger than me so I attacked, and got about 10 seconds clear of them.

 

"Then over the top, I heard on the radio that they were telling Gianluca: ‘Don't pull, Matteo's coming up.' I'm not sure if they even saw me coming up in the end. I haven't spoken to Gianluca yet, but I think it was like that.

 

“It was key that I saw the stage finish today [with one lap to go]. They were two great riders ahead of me: Moreno [Moser], who has won what he won and is now getting back to his level, and Gianluca [Brambilla] who has been doing great since the beginning of the season.

 

“When they rode away, my goal was to reach the top of the climb with a small deficit. Having Gianluca at the front, I didn’t have to ride with [Nikias] Arndt, [Sacha] Modolo and [Ivan] Rovny. Eventually I was able to attack them and make it across. I don’t think Moreno even saw me coming from behind but Gianluca knew as he was told via radio to stop pulling because I was right there.

 

"Today we took the first and third, the team has done a tremendous job. I want to enjoy this victory. Today was a bit like Asolo and I liked the stage but honestly I could not believe it too because it was very hard.

 

"We had to be in the right breakaway and have a good day. Also if there had been a good climber, it would have been difficult. I climbed and chased on the descent. In addition, I was in the best of situations because I did not have to work behind.

 

"For the red jersey, I think it is now finished. Nizzolo has showed in this Giro that he is super consistent. He is never wrong and always takes points.

 

"Even if we take away Tom [Boonen] and [Fabian] Cancellara, there's a small group that's been up there with them for four or five years and I have a bit of work to do if I'm going to join that club.

 

"I did twenty days at altitude before Tirreno-Adriatico this year and I felt good in the Classics but I was missing something when the race exploded. But I needed two or three years to emerge as an amateur, and that's even more the case with the professionals.

 

"Apart from a fuoriclasse like Sagan, who was up there straight away, riders need time to develop. Look at Greg Van Avermaet, it took him a long time to get there. You have to work on small details from year to year.”

 

Selfless teammate Gianluca Brambilla: We can’t be too selfish

"I tell you, I was very good, very good but Trentin had good legs,” Gianluca Brambilla told Eurosport. “I tried to play it and keep Moser a little bit tired to keep him in the front and to try and make the different but I couldn’t keep the difference to get away from him on the climb. I saw a blue jersey coming around so I stopped helping Moser, I just stayed in the wheel and we managed to get the victory. I’m really happy for Matteo.

 

"I had the information over earpiece, but I wasn't only listening to it, I looked back a few times too and I could see that Matteo was coming up. In a two-up sprint I normally look to be in front, but I stayed second wheel this time and I never even opened my effort because I was waiting for Matteo to come back on.

 

"Don't say I sacrificed a win because that takes away from what Matteo did. Matteo made a great chase and a great sprint. It was a real finisseur's effort. Often you only think about your own chances  but we can’t be too selfisk

 

“I'm happy with my performance. On the climbs I maybe had something more than Moreno and he lost the game.”

 

Bob Jungels optimistic for Alpine stages

The favourites completed the stage more than 13 minutes behind, but not before Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked on the last ascent, prompting the response of the other riders. Seventh in the overall standings, white jersey Bob Jungels was there and stayed with the best, finishing the day safely and confident ahead of Friday's big mountain stage:

 

"I'm really happy that the team won again. This Giro was really great for us. Concerning me, I felt good and I am satisfied with my performance, as I was there with the best guys. Tomorrow it will be a different stage, shorter, colder, at altitude and hard right from the beginning. We'll see how it unfolds, but I hope to be strong again.

 

"It could have been worse eh? - It's another stage for our team. I stayed with the best, and I felt good on the climb. We had good weather the whole day, it was a nice day in the saddle. It's good for the next few days.

 

”It's going to be a hard day - it might be a little similar to the day before yesterday. Hard from the beginning on, which could suit me if the climbs are not so steep. We have nothing to lose anymore."

 

Lack of radio information destroys great opportunity for Moreno Moser

Stage 18 might not have been the most mountainous, but it was the longest at 240km. Ramunas Navardauskas and Moreno Moser positioned themselves in the 24-rider break of the day. Leading into the cruel finishing circuit with climbs topping out at 20% gradient, Navardauskas went to the front to manage breakaway attempts to put Moser in position to fight for the win. In the final 20 kilometers, Moser found himself off the front with Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step). The two riders matched each other on the climbs and came to the finishing straight with only a handful of seconds over Brambilla's teammate Matteo Trentin. Forced to lead out the sprint, Moser crossed the line in second as Trentin caught and passed the duo.

 

“There’s not much I can say. I was watching Brambilla and then I saw Trentin flash by at 20 metres to go, and there was nothing I could do,” he told Spaziocicliso and Cyclingnews.

 

“This was a huge chance for me, perhaps one of the biggest in my life to win a stage at the Giro d’Italia. I didn’t know that Trentin was coming back up to us. I’d lost my radio. For sure my directeur sportif would have told me but I couldn’t hear anything because my radio had slipped out.

 

“I’m sorry, really sorry it didn’t work out. This was a unique occasion for me. I’d managed to start things well by getting in the break. I felt good, and me and Brambilla rode well together. It was a similar situation to the finish in Arezzo. He was better that day but, this time, I managed to stay with him I think I could have beaten him.

 

"I did not expect Trentin to be so close. I could see that Brambilla did not pull or collaborate but I did not think it was because of Trentin. Unfortunately I only saw in the last 100 meters when it was too late.”

 

Rigoberto Uran targets stage wins in the Alps

Having suffered from a cold, Rigoberto Uran is returning to form.

 

“The Giro d’Italia is hard when you’re healthy and so it’s even harder when you’re sick with a cold. You gradually pay for every effort you make,” Uran told Cyclingnews.

 

“Last week, I tried hard to hang on but I really paid for it in the two big mountain stages and lost some important time. I hope I’m on the way back and was on form at the start of the Giro d’Italia. I really want to win a mountain stage.

 

Sacha Modolo: I am proving that I am not only a sprinter

Sacha Modolo once again obtained a 4th place, however this time he was close to pulling off a real master stroke.

Sacha Modolo and Matej Mohoric represented Lampre-Merida in the break. Mohoric was very attentive and was in the group when it split on the cobbled wall for the first time. However, on Pramartino, it was Modolo who did best, joining the four-rider chase group-
 

Modolo tried hard to bridge the gap but had to settle for fourth.

"Many congrats to Modolo, who did an impressive race and he was so close to completing a masterpiece,”  sports director Mario Scirea explained. “We won't regret the missed victory, Sacha gave his best until the end and Trentin succeded in exploiting the final part of the course which was more suitable for him than for Sacha and he could also exploit the presence of his team mate Brambilla in the best possible way.
 

“Mohoric had a very good day too. He was brilliant until in the final kilometers when his competitiveness decreased".

 

"I wanted to win the stage and I did not think about the red jersey. In the break, however, Etixx - QuickStep, had two riders and this was all I could do. Trentin could sit on between the climb and the wall. I tried to attack on the wall but Trentin had that extra little bit to get a 50.metre gap. It’s another lost but opportunity I'm proving to be not only a sprinter.”

 

Nikias Arndt shows his versatility with fifth place at the Giro d’Italia

For Giant-Alpecin, Nikias Arndt and Albert Timmer both had the legs to force their way into a 24-rider move which went on to contest the stage victory in Pinerolo.

 

The main test of the day came in the form of the second-category Pramartino and after good support from Timmer, Arndt proved to be among the strongest, making his way over the summit in the third position.  Only the two Italians Moreno Moser (Cannondale) and Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick-Step) were ahead of him with a 20″ advantage. 

 

In the finale, Arndt and three others lead the chase behind the leading duo, who were 16″ ahead at 4km from the finish. In the end, he had to settle for fifth.

 

Nikias Arndt gave his thoughts after the race: “It was a long day in the break today. We expected before the start that the breakaway would make it to the finish and we wanted at least one or two riders in the break. With Albert, we tried to save as much energy as possible and that went quite well throughout the stage.

 

“The finale was pretty hard, on the second category climb I had really good legs and I managed to be third over the summit as I almost came back on the leading duo. During the chase, I had to use a lot of energy to try and close the gap but unfortunately we didn’t.

 

“On the last climb, I wasn’t able to follow the attacks, I didn’t have any power left in my legs. Overall it was a good day but we had hoped for an even better result as we were aiming for the stage win.”

 

Coach Luke Roberts added: “We had a break of 24 riders with Nikias and Albert in there. There weren’t many attacks before the final climb but once the climb started the group exploded with two riders jumping away as Albert helped Nikias get over the climb in a good position. 

 

“Nikias was just behind the two leaders but he couldn’t bridge the gap with the leaders. Nikias gave everything for the stage win, he kept riding hard but unfortunately the leaders were too far ahead. In the end, he finished 5th which shows how strong he was all day.”

 

Overshooting a corner costs Ivan Rovny big chance at the Giro d’Italia

It was a second day in a row for Tinkoff in the escape today, as another flat stage brought out the breakaway riders looking for a stage win. While much of the stage was flat, a finishing circuit that took in some testing and energy-sapping climbs at the end of the longest day of the Giro would show who was going to have the legs to contest the win. Today saw Pavel Brutt, in his second break in two days, joined by Jay McCarthy and Ivan Rovny. Rovny looked strong, and on for another result after his second place on stage 10, but after overshooting a corner late on he was left chasing and eventually finished in sixth spot.

 

Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman stated yesterday that being in the break would be important, and was pleased with how his riders responded.

 

"It was a perfect situation for us - 24 in front and we had three guys there which was super. Brutt was up there for the second day after a day full gas yesterday which was really impressive, and Jay was also there which was nice to see and good for him.”

 

On one of the last stages where the terrain suited a move like this, Hoffman was happy that the team took the opportunities today.

 

“They did a good race, but at the end there were a few others that were a bit stronger. Ivan was together with the winner in the downhill but had to unclip in a corner at the base of the final climb. The others got a gap and he couldn't get back. I'm happy because this was one of the last stages for these guys to try something and they were really focused at the start to make sure they got into the move. Ok, we didn't win but we did our best.”

 

With the breakaway across the line more than thirteen minutes before, it was the GC riders coming to the finish. Sprinting to ensure none of the GC contenders took a second or two on the overall standings, Rafal Majka crossed the line with his rivals, all of them taking the same time.


The Giro has been a strong team effort so far, and today was no different, explained Hoffman.

 

"The guys behind that were with Rafa did a perfect lead out into the climb to keep him in position, and he was never in difficulty so it's a good sign for two days to come - we still have hopes of the podium.”

 

"Tomorrow will be tough,” said Hoffman. “A very long first climb and then the mountain top finish in Risoul, where Rafa won at the Tour two years ago. We are hopeful he can do something and we'll see how the race develops."

 

Illness takes Manuel Belletti out of the Giro d’Italia, Wilier on the attack

Wilier – Triestina has lost its sprinter. Manuel Belletti had to quit the Giro d'Italia due to an infection of the upper respiratory tract that resulted in a bronchitis.

 

Belletti has had episodes of bronchospasm in the last two stages that forced him to more medical examination.The medical staff took the decision to not endanger the health of the rider.

 

In the stage, the team had Matteo Busato and young Spaniard Julen Amezqueta in the break. The Veneto rider, often in the breakaways of this Giro, was able to stay in the front until the climb where he couldn't follow the wheels of the best riders, ending in a good 7th place, while Amezqueta was 12th.

 

Christian Knees: The plan was to have Nicolas Roche in the break

Christian Knees hit out in the stage 18 breakaway at the Giro d'Italia, securing a top-10 finish to fly the flag for Team Sky.

 

The powerful German made his way into a sizeable 24-man move during the longest stage of the race and looked to attack late on, prior to the stage's one and only categorised climb.

 

But amid a lively and motivated group Knees was unable to create a gap, and eventually slipped back on the relentless ramps of the Pramartino climb, finishing one minute and 16 seconds behind the stage winners.

 

The day was more straightforward for the GC contenders, with Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) untroubled on the late climbs to retain his impressive three-minute lead. A severely reduced lead group crossed the line 13:24 back on the day's winner, with Nicolas Roche demonstrating good legs to finish alongside the overall leaders.

 

The remaining members of Team Sky were content to sit in the pack during the mammoth 244km day out, conserving as much energy as possible ahead of a two-day voyage into the high mountains.

 

Back at the team hotel Knees talked TeamSky.com through a day in the break and his thoughts heading into the closing stages.

 

"I didn't know how my legs would feel on the climb," he explained. "It was quite steep and I thought if I could get a little advantage before that might help. It was too difficult to get away and I'm actually quite happy that move didn't work out. On the climb my legs felt fine and I was able to pace myself well up there. I ended up on Trentin's wheel at the top - but the descent was so sketchy. Somehow I lost contact down there and there was another ride between us. I couldn't close the gap towards the finish.

 

"I was happy to be in the mix and it was a good try today. I ended up in the break by just following the moves. I was monitoring things for the other guys. Nico (Roche) was keen to be in the break but suddenly after some roundabouts it split and I ended up out there for the day. I'm happy with my performance, even if the result could have been a bit better.

 

"I tried in the sprint on stage 17 and we'll all just keep trying. There are three more days to go. We're happy Mikel (Nieve) was able to win his stage. That takes a bit of pressure away but we're still all really hungry to perform well and show what we could have done if Mikel Landa was still here. We're all very motivated for the final stages."

 

Descent costs Axel Domont chance to go for glory at the Giro d’Italia

"I was keen to be in the break,” said Axel Domont who finished 9th for Ag2r. “We suspected that it might go to the finish. It escaped early. We quickly got a gap, nobody was dangerous for the GC. I had to manage my strength. With 60km to go, I felt that I was fine. I was fifth at the top of the climb but I did not know the descent. I knew it was dangerous. I lost time there. I was with Modolo and Trentin and when I see that the latter wins, there is reason to have regrets. I cracked in the last climb two kilometers from the finish. Despite this, this is my first top ten this season. I cannot be unhappy, but there was more to do! I have to be positive. We are in the third week and I managed to escape. This is good sign."

 

Davide Malacarne virtually secures Astana teams GC win at the Giro d’Italia

"It was important to get into the breakaway for the team classification in which we are always in first place. It's a goal to which the team is very keen,” said Davide Malacarne who was 10th.

 

"Tomorrow we expect a very long and demanding stage and we are ready to defend the lead and helping Vincenzo to climb positions in the standings."

 

"I have a camera crew following me,” he told Spaziociclsimo. A dear friend of mine, Enrico De Buono, proposed to follow me. It works well and there are many people that support me and follow me. That makes me happy.

 

"Let's say that I failed in the break as I didn’t have the energy. Since the beginning of the Giro, I haven been working for Vincenzo and today I was a little tired. With a better form and a different energy management I could do well, but we are here to win the Giro.

 

 

"My personal ambitions are to help Vincenzo as best I can. And he still wants to win the maglia rosa.”

 

Vincenzo Nibali: Today my legs felt good

"I know the tifosi always hope I can do something special in the two big mountain stages but if my legs don't respond there's not much I can do," Vincenzo Nibali told Spaziociclismo. “If my legs are good, who knows. My legs felt pretty good today.

 

"Today I had a pretty good day. I was passive on Valverde’s wheel, because the stage was best for him.

 

"The fans are hoping, I try not to disappoint them. I try to give affection to people with small gestures, that's the beauty of cycling. It is clear that you cannot always invent things but we will try to do something."

 

"We should have the results of the tests tonight, we'll think things over calmly and decide things," sports director Giuseppe Martinelli  said.

 

"I think Vincenzo always raced with his heart and he's proved it. We've paid a high price for what's happened but we've still got three stages to race. Tomorrow will be a tough day but who knows what will happen."

 

"Vincenzo is recovering,” said sporting director Paolo Slongo. “And on the eve of a new Alpine stage this is an optimistic sign.”

 

Stefan Küng frustrated to crash out of Giro breakaway

Stefan Küng and Daniel Oss formed part of a 24-rider breakaway who attacked early in the stage, and went on to establish a gap of more than 12 minutes.

 

Küng crashed on a descent but managed to chase the breakaway down just prior to the climb, where attack after attack played out.

 

Stefan Küng said:

 

“Today was incredibly frustrating. I made the breakaway and was feeling really good and had good legs. But sometimes I think I want it too badly. After I crashed I didn’t feel too bad at first and managed to catch up with the breakaway. But as we approached the climbs it started to hit me and there’s not much more to say. In didn’t go my way today.”

 

Daniel Oss: I didn’t expect the final climb to be so hard

Daniel Oss said:

 

“Today’s stage was really, really hard. We knew it was going to be but I think we didn’t realize exactly how hard the final climb would be. It had been a high tempo in the breakaway all day, and after more than 200 kilometers, everyone is already tired. I attacked with about 45 kilometers to go to make it harder for everyone, and then after that we were going full gas. I did my best today. Three more days to go and we’ll be done, so we’ll try and race as hard as we can until we reach Torino.”

 

Max Sciandri, Sports Director, added:

 

“We knew that today would be a day for a breakaway and it was. We had Stefan and Daniel in there which was great, but it would have been good to have Alessandro De Marchi in there too as the final was harder than what we predicted. Stefan crashed on one of the descents when he was sitting in third wheel and his wheel slipped out, so for him it was already difficult from there. It was an uphill race and he had to chase to get back on, and change a bike.

 

“When we went through Pinerolo the first time and on the climb Stefan was dropped. Daniel gained a couple more points in the intermediate sprints with two fourth places. He tried to do his best, as our plan was originally more for Stefan but that didn’t work out, so he did his best to stay up there. Darwin [Atapuma] came home with the GC group which was good. It was a dangerous descent so it was best to play it safe for that group.”

 

Only Japanese rider on the attack at the Giro d’Italia

In the longest stage of this Giro d’Italia, Genki Yamamoto and his team mate Gianfranco Zilioli were in the break. For Yamamoto it was the very first escape of his career in the Giro d’Italia after his attacks in Tour de San Luis and Trofeo Laigueglia earlier this year.


Genki Yamamoto is happy: “It was my big desire to be in an escape in this Giro, and thanks to sports director Giuliani and my teammates, I made it into the breakaway that arrived at the finish line today. In the last km against such top level riders, there was not a chance for me. I hope to have been honoring my country at the best as I am the only Japanese rider in the race.”

 

No double victory for Roger Kluge in Giro d’Italia breakaway

For the second consecutive day, IAM Cycling found itself in the spotlight at the end of a stage for the Giro.  In Pinerolo, Stefan Denifl, Heinrich Haussler, Roger Kluge, Vegard Stake Laengen, and Marcel Wyss climbed onto the ceremonial stage in order to receive the award for the best team tally of points for the previous day.  Roger Kluge’s victory added to the 15th place that Heinrich Haussler notched, gave the Swiss team the chance to prolong the celebration,

 

The winner of the day in Cassano d'Adda has yet to show his best.  During this longest stage of the Giro, the German strongman spent over 200 kilometers in the lead with 23 other riders before eventually falling prey to the steep percentages of the day’s most demanding climb.

 

"A breakaway was enough [today],” he sia.d “It was a long stage, but it was a big group so it wasn't that hard, but the final was very tough. In the beginning I felt quite good, of course it was all flat. In the end, I ran out of energy and on the climb it was really hard to just keep going forward. I hope I can recover because tomorrow is maybe OK, but the other two days are very hard. I hope I can make it to Turin, but it we will see after Friday and Saturday."

 

Alejandro Valverde: I don’t think the top 5 will change much in the Alps

It was a surprise, last-minute winning move by Matteo Trentin (EQS) to surge past team-mate Gianluca Brambilla and CPT's Moreno Moser to claim the win on stage 18 of the 2016 Giro d'Italia. The longest route in this year's Corsa Rosa started in the outskirts of Milano (Muggiò) and finished in Pinerolo after crossing the city of Turin - where the race will come to an end on Sunday - and climbing three demanding hills with Pramartino (Cat-2) and the two-stroke, cobbled Principe di Acaja / San Maurizio.

 

A 24-man breakaway overshadowed the field of favourites as they ammassed almost 15 minutes of advantage over the Movistar Team peloton. Rojas and a much-recovered Visconti acted as best domestiques for Amador and Valverde on the final climbs. Battaglin's (TLJ) pace on the Pramartino prevented any attacks and made the favourites, Valverde among those, trying it only on the final ascent of San Maurizio. Despite his efforts in both the cobbled kick and the final sprint so as to get a gap over the GC leaders, all members of the overall top-nine came across the line together.

 

Valverde still sits in third overall, 3'23" down on Kruijswijk -and just twenty-three seconds behind Chaves (OGE, 2nd) - with Amador in 8th at 8'53", as the Giro enters the French Alps for its decision from Friday's stage nineteen. The Colle dell'Agnello, this year's 'Cima Coppi' at 2,744m above sea level, and a very long descent will take the riders to the Risoul ski resort (Cat-1). A 162km trek where everything will be at stake yet again.

 

Alejandro Valverde said: 

 

“It was quite comfortable for most of the stage, but the finale ended up being really hard. Another day over for us - long racing today, with such a steep finish. Tomorrow's stage is a key one and we must try to keep the front, not to lose anything against the podium rivals and gain something, if it's possible. Just like Saturday's, it will be a decisive stage, though I think Saturday's will be the hardest as the wear and tear from tomorrow will have a massive impact. It will be difficult to get to pink jersey position, but that's been our task from the very start of this Giro.

 

"Lotto-Jumbo has a superb team for the flat, and they protected Kruijswijk well also on the Pramartino climb. We knew there weren't going to be big gaps today either. Kruijswijk again proved to feel really strong, as did Chaves, Nibali and myself.

 

”There may be some changes between the first five overall until Saturday evening, but I don't think there will be much. I don't feel the Giro is over, though; anything can happen in this final weekend. The legs felt quite well today and I hope they continue this way for the remainder of the race.

 

"All day we went quiet, but in the end it was a tough stage. Tomorrow anything can happen. Both tomorrow and Saturday we face two very tough stages in which anything can happen. The first place is very difficult, but we are here to try."

 

Steven Kruijswijk: I am not afraid of the altitude

After the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia today in Pinerolo, Steven Kruijswijk remains in the pink jersey. The LottoNL-Jumbo’s position was not in danger on the Pramartino, the only categorised climb of the day. Matteo Trentin (Ettix-Quick Step) won the stage ahead of the group of favourites at 13 minutes.

 

Early in the stage, a leading group of 24 went away with no LottoNL-Jumbo cyclists. The men of Steven Kruijswijk set the pace behind. They covered around 100 kilometres in two hours.

 

"Everything went according to plan today, a large group quickly went away,” said Sports Director Addy Engels. “The jersey was never in danger and Steven is looking forward to the coming days.”

 

LottoNL-Jumbo rode the whole day in front, but the speed was noted.

 

"It was a high tempo and at one point, there were even riders asking if we could possibly slow down so they could pee,” said Kruijswijk. "I didn’t see much of the peloton because I only had my team-mates around me. I was never outside the first five of the group."

 

The 24 men were allowed to fight for the stage win. In the final, Italians Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx - Quick Step) and Moreno Moser (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team) escaped, but Brambilla’s team-mate Matteo Trentin blew by in the last 200 metres for the win in Pinerolo. 

 

Enrico Battaglin led the peloton on the climb to Pramartino.

 

"Enrico was better than I expected, he kept pushing and no one attacked.”

 

"They did nothing,” Kruijswijk said of his rivals. “As long as I’m ahead, I have the mental boost over them. It is important to show no weakness.

 

“I didn’t see much of the rest of the peloton today, only my own team in front of me. They were really strong, and kept me safe all day and out of the wind. I think we did a really good job on the last climb. We kept the right pace, a lot of the guys could follow and there were no attacks. On the last climb, I stayed in the front and kept an eye on everyone.

 

 “It’s a little bit different on the cobbles. When you’re standing your bike is going everywhere, so I had to sit down for one moment. It wasn’t because I couldn’t follow. I saw Valverde go and I was on his wheel, no problems.

 

"It was a really long stage and I think the team did a perfect job. We had three guys pulling on the front for 200 kilometres and then I had some more guys to bring me to the climb.

 

"Enrico pulled on the whole climb, I had just had to follow my teammates all day. We knew a break would go away early and stay out there to the finish, and you notice which riders and teams want to be the break. It's predictable at the end of the Giro. We knew we had to control the race, and we did.”

 

 

They face a tough stage tomorrow that could decide the Giro.

 

"It will go down to the last men,” said Engels. “It’s reassuring that Steven has shown to be the best uphill." 

 

"Tomorrow is better for me than today,” Kruijswijk added. “I showed in the last week that I'm really good on those long climbs. I need to have no fear, it is especially important when they attack.

 

"I'm looking forward to tomorrow and Saturday. They're long climbs, and I've trained a lot for long climbs like this. I already showed last week that I'm good on the longer climbs and at altitude, so we'll see what tomorrow brings.

 

"When you race at 2,700 metres, it's hard and there's a shortage of oxygen, but last week we did climbs like the Passo Giau, which is at 2,200 metres. I was comfortable there and I've trained at altitude too."

 

”I have been the team leader since the beginning, and I still have the same role in the team, although the Maglia Rosa gives me more confidence. I’m enjoying every moment in it. I hope I have made the race very attractive in the last week. I have received lots of support from the Italian fans, so I don’t think I’ve spoiled their party.

 

"I expected to be attacked, but today they did not attack me. I feel really good. If I stay in front, I cannot get surprised. But this is perhaps why they are not attacking me.

 

"Of course we have two difficult stages where there will be opportunities to attack me. But I feel really good and I'm confident I can stay in the lead. The stage to Risoul may be a bit easier to control. But we'll see.”

 

Orica-GreenEDGE and Esteban Chaves hope to benefit from high altitude at the Giro

For the second stage in succession Esteban Chaves and the other race favourites all finished together on stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia with the Colombian remaining in second place for ORICA-GreenEDGE as the race heads back into the mountains.

 

Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) retains the race leaders pink jersey with Queen Stage winner Chaves three minutes down in second place. Stage 18 was won by Matteo Trentin (Etixx-Quickstep) who was part of a winning move made from the day’s early breakaway.

 

Tomorrow’s stage 19 is a full on serious mountain stage and includes the ‘Cima Coppi’ – the highest peak of the Giro d’Italia. At 2,744metres the Colle dell’Agnello is one of the highest mountain passes in Europe and traverses the Italian/French Cottian Alps. After the ‘Agnello’ the field will negotiate a tough technical descent before the summit finish in the French ski resort, Risoul.

 

Sport director Matt White wasn’t surprised with how the stage unfolded.

 

“It was always going to be a day for the breakaway,” said White. “But it also had the potential for two races within one. The race for the stage win and the other with the favourites tightly marking each other.

 

“With the sharp San Maurizio climb just before the finish there was a chance that splits could form, but in the end we didn’t see it.”

 

“We are still in a great position with two massive mountain stages coming up,” explained White. “It’s the ‘Cima Coppi’ tomorrow which is a big, big climb at nearly 2,800metres followed by a difficult finish.

 

“Esteban (Chaves) is used to training in the mountains at high altitude at home in Columbia so hopefully tomorrow will be familiar territory for him.”

 

No chance for breakaways for Katusha riders as it is all for Zakarin at the Giro

Behind the break the main GC contenders stayed all together during the whole day. Despite some attacks on the climbs, the favorites crossed the finish line together 13 minutes and 24 seconds behind the stage winner. KATUSHA’s Ilnur Zakarin, having a strong team's support the entire day, finished the stage with the other favorites without any problem.

 

”It was another hard and exhausting stage of 240 km long. These kind of stages take a lot of energy. So, our main goal for today was to support Ilnur during the whole day. I asked the riders not to go in the breakaways, but just to be near Ilnur, to help him, to lead out out to the climbs. In the final we had Rein Taaramäe with Zakarin, so our leader was protected until the very last moment of the stage. I am happy with the way our team did this stage. We will have two the most important days ahead and today it was all about saving energy,” said sports directorDmitry Konyshev.

 

Stage 18 did not produce any changes in the general classification of the race – Steven Kruijswijk from LottoNL-Jumbo still holds the maglia rosa, while Ilnur Zakarin is 5th, 4.50 behind the leader.

 

Kanstantsin Siutsou: I’ve never experienced a grand tour like this

Unfortunately, no Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders made the break and so the African Team would take advantage of the easier day in the peloton to save energy for the tough upcoming weekend and protect the GC hopes of Kanstantsin Siutsou.

 

It was all about keeping Siutsou's top 10 GC aspirations alive over the Pramartino. The team did a great job protecting Siutsou all day and then delivering him to a good position for the climb. The peloton was reduced to just 20 of the top GC riders and Siutsou was there accompanied by Igor Anton for support as well. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) who started the stage in 11th on GC, just 18 seconds behind Siutsou, was dropped on the climb and so Anton contributed to the pace setting to help put time between Siutsou and the 11th position. In the end, Siutsou came home just behind all the other GC favourites and the gap back to 11th now sits at 2'38".

 

Kanstantsin Siutsou said:
 

“I have never experienced anything like this stage of the Giro d'Italia in a grand tour before. You think on a stage like today you start easy, there goes a big breakaway and that's it. But, everyday has been full gas and today from 150km it was one line in the peloton. Our boys did a fantastic job, like Jay, Jaco and everybody else to keep me protected in the line. I never suffered or had to wait for a bidon or anything. Before the climb they kept me in position and after the climb Igor did a job for me to protect my general classification position. I am a little bit tired but we will just see how the next two days go, after that we can relax.”

 

Colbrelli and Ciccone suffer from stomach problems at the Giro

Due to a bad condition for Colbrelli and Ciccone who suffer from intestinal problems, Bardiani lost the chance to take part in the daily breakaway.

 

Stefano Pirazzi, 32nd, was first at the finish for the team and kept his position in GC, 17th.

 

Maxime Monfort: We missed a great chance to go for another stage win

Pim Ligthart in the break for Lotto Soudal The peloton gave them a comfortable lead. Unfortunately Pim Ligthart was dropped in the finale. Maxime Monfort finished a few seconds behind the best GC riders. He remains nineteenth overall.

 

"It went well physically,” Monfort said. “But there was only one rider in the breakaway and it was too little. It must be said that the right group formed without a real fight. We missed a great chance to go for the stage win. Subsequently, I focused on following the pink jersey group. Tomorrow and on Saturday, there are two very big mountain stages. The peloton is very tired in general, and a lo twill happen.”

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