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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 18: Filippo Zana beats Thibaut Pinot to stage win, João Almeida loses time in GC fight

Primož Roglič moves up to second place overall after João Almeida was distanced on penultimate climb.

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Once again at this Giro d’Italia, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was left to lick his wounds after he was beaten to the line by Filippo Zana (Jayco-AlUla), who claimed victory on stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Zana and Pinot were the last men standing from the day’s breakaway and they went into the final kilometer together. Pinot tried to burn Zana off his wheel but the Italian champion had too much power for the Frenchman in the sprint for the line.

“This Giro for me is a dream, the whole Giro. I really need to thank the team because they gave me the opportunity,” Zana said afterward. “First, going to the WorldTour, then to come here and prepare the best for the Giro.

“I also had a chance today to go and play my cards. I can’t really believe it, but I need to thank them very much.”

In the GC battle, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) moved up to second place overall after João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) was distanced by a big push from Sepp Kuss. However, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) continued to look strong as he followed Roglič and shored up his position in the pink jersey with two more GC days to go.

Thomas now holds a 29-second lead over Roglič with Almeida at 39 seconds. Meanwhile, Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla) jumped ahead of Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) into fourth place.

Cracks in the mountains

After a sprint stage Wednesday, it was back into the mountains for stage 18. The 160km stage from Oderzo to the summit finish on Val di Zoldo started frenetically with attacks zipping off the front of the peloton.

The extremely quick pace saw the peloton explode over the first-category Passo della Crosetta and Jumbo-Visma leader Primož Roglič was briefly distanced when the bunch split with his team forced to close the gap.

Seven riders formed a strong breakaway. The lucky seven were Aurelian Paret-Peintre (AG2R-Citroën), Vadim Pronskiy (Astana-Qazaqstan), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) — who started the day 6:48 down on GC — Marco Frigo and Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), and Filippo Zana (Jayco-AlUla).

The gap to the escapees gradually built up as the race traveled along the flatter roads on the run to the trio of finishing climbs. By the time they hit the foot of the first-category Forcella Cibiana with just under 35km to go, the gap stood at around 5:30.

It would be cut by only a minute once the ascent and descent had been completed but the break’s numbers had dwindled to five riders.

Behind, the peloton had been whittled down to the favorites, their key support riders, and a few extra hangers-on. With less than 30 remaining in the “main” group, chasing down the escapees was going to be a tough task.

The breakaway further disintegrated as Pinot put the hurt on over the penultimate climb’s steepest gradients with only Gee, Zana, and Barguil able to go with him. Pinot had taken the mountains jersey back from Ben Healy during the stage, but he wanted a stage win to go with it.

Barguil was the next to go, soon followed by Gee. With eight kilometers remaining, there were just two left at the front.

Jumbo-Visma, and Sepp Kuss, used a similar spot as the road reared up to turn the screw on the other GC favorites. After winning two days ago, Almeida was the first of the big favorites to crack but he had Jay Vine to help him get back on.

Thomas was briefly distanced but clawed his way back along with Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla). The pink jersey had a quicker answer when Roglič attacked a few kilometers later, but Dunbar didn’t and he was distanced. Kuss watched his leader go up the road before getting himself back and taking up pacing duties again.

Almeida’s chase almost went awry when Vine misjudged a corner and had to unclip to avoid crashing. Fortunately, Almeida avoided hitting his teammate, who was soon back up and running. However, Vine wouldn’t last much longer, and he peeled off as the road started going up again, leaving the Portuguese rider to close the gap himself.

At the head of the race, Pinot and Zana went into the final kilometer together with almost a minute of a gap to the chasers behind. Zana sat on Pinot’s wheel for almost the whole ride to the line, only jumping out to pass him with less than 200 meters to go, leaving the Frenchman to the disappointment of defeat, and not for the first time during this race.

Thomas and Roglič rode through to the finish together with Almeida now chasing on along. The duo took 21 seconds on the UAE rider, allowing Roglič to leapfrog him into second place.

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