Tour of Italy: The first stage in the Dolomites, an Italian victory and a battle of the triumvirate

Filippo Zana

BRUSSELS -  Italian champion Filippo Zana beat French Thibaut Pinot in a short sprint to win stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia. Portuguese João Almeida lost time in the general classification.

 With only 161 km, Thursday’s was one of the shorter stages of this Giro, but its five climbs would make it one of the harder. Stage 18 from Oderzo to the “Val di Zoldo” ski resort was the first of three stages in the Dolomite Mountains. Thursday morning, after almost three weeks of cycling, no less than 50 of the original 176 riders had abandoned the tour.

 British Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday sporting the pink jersey. When early in the race he noticed that his main contender, Slovene Primož Roglič, and his Jumbo-Visma team were dangling at the back of the peloton, Thomas asked his team to keep a fast pace.

 A group of seven riders, among which French Thibaut Pinot, had managed to break away. On the steep Coi (an average gradient of 9.7% and a maximum gradient of 19.7%), Pinot and Italian champion Filippo Zana left their five companions behind them. Arriving first on each following climb, Pinot became the leader of the KOM classification.

 Yet, on the final climb towards Val di Zoldo, Pinot again made beginner’s mistakes. Just like he did two days ago. In the final 200 m, Zana accelerated and won the stage.

 Meanwhile, at 7.4 km from the finish line, Roglič’s master aid, American Sepp Kuss, had accelerated on the Coi. João Almeida, who then was second in the general classification after having impressed in the previous mountain stage, could not follow. Only Thomas and Irish Eddy Dunbar, fourth in the general classification, could follow both Jumbo-Visma riders. Then Primož Roglič himself attacked. This time, only Thomas could follow. At less than one km from the top, stage 18 finally brought the fireworks everyone expected it to bring!

 Thomas and Roglič cooperated in order to take more time on Almeida. At the finish line, Roglič beat Thomas in the sprint. Almeida finished 21 seconds later. After Thursday’s stage, Thomas was leading the general classification with 29 seconds on Roglič and ten more on Almeida. Number four, Dunbar, lagged almost four minutes. With one more mountain stage and an atypical time trial to go, it looks like this Giro will be contended by Thomas, Roglič and Almeida.

The general classification (top 10) after stage 18:

1.Geraint Thomas (GBR) INEOS Grenadiers

2.Primož Roglič (SVN) Team Jumbo-Visma 0’29”

3.João Almeida (PRT) UAE Team Emirates 0’39”

4.Eddie Dunbar (IRL) Team Jayco AlUla 3’39”

5.Damiano Caruso (ITA) Bahrain – Victorious 3’51”

6.Lennard Kämna (DEU) BORA – hansgrohe 4’27”

7.Thibaut Pinot (FRA) Groupama – FDJ 4’43”

8.Andreas Leknessund (NOR) Team DSM 4’47”

9.Thymen Arensman (NLD) INEOS Grenadiers 4’53”

10.Laurens De Plus (BEL) INEOS Grenadiers 5’52”