Stage 18 Review: a break of 23 riders and they built up an invincible lead by the time they reached the Pavese hills. The attacks flew and it was was on of those enjoyable finishes that was neither sprint nor summit finish and full of subtleties. Only Alberto Bettiol was having none of it, he was simply too strong for the others. Rémi Cavagna had gone solo but Bettiol was in pursuit, at one point Nicolas Roche managed to get to Bettiol’s wheel on the descent into Broni. Roche sat on but on the next climb Bettiol just rode away. He had Cavagna in his sights and got to him on the final climb. What next for the two strong riders? It turns out Cavagna wasn’t so much in oxygen debt, he’d defaulted and his legs had gone into liquidation. Bettiol went solo and had time to sit up and celebrate his first win in Italy.
The Route: 166km and a change, the Giro won’t climb to Mottarone following the recent cable car disaster and instead sticks to a lower road going Gignese, a more gentle road up and then a quick descent down to shores of the Lago di Maggiore and with the Giro di Lombardia feel, first woodland then past crowded housing, then the valley to climb the Passo della Colma – a pleonasm as Colma is the local word for a pass – which is 7.5km at 6.5%, a gentle climb and more a warm-up than a place to start racing hard. Then it’s down to the Valsesia, the valleys that sit below Monte Rosa, Europe’s second highest mountain.
The Finish: a ski station summit finish? Only the Alpe di Mera is more a car park and a few chairlifts that open if conditions allow, the finish is only 1531m above sea level. Correspondingly the road today is small and hard going, you can’t drive coachloads of tourists up here. After a gentle start it ratchets up and stays tough all the way to the finish, the max of 14% is for a brief moment.
The Contenders: it’s a Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) kind of climb, it’s not at altitude, it’s not too long and it’s steep. But João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quickstep) was faster than him. Still Egan Bernal (Ineos) was strong on the Zoncolan so is hard to look past either.
A breakaway has a good chance so look for Dan Martin (Israel) again, if he’s not in the break then Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) is climbing well but has been busy for the last two stages. George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) is more rested and might appreciate the warmer weather and like Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) they can try today and if not tomorrow.
|Dan Martin, Simon Yates, João Almeida, Egan Bernal|
|Bennett, Mollema, Ulissi, Bouwman, Rubio, Cataldo|
Weather: sunny, a pleasant 24°C for the first part but cooler later in the valleys, 17°C.
TV: the stage starts at 12.20pm, the Passo della Colma begins around 3.40pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in