Chaves still 2nd overall at the Giro d’Italia ahead of a return to the mountains

Thu 26 May 2016

For the second consecutive stage 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 leader's 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.

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.”

Tomorrow’s stage 19 is a 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.

“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.”

How it happened:

The sun shone brightly at the start of stage 18 in Muggio this morning welcoming the riders to a relaxed sign on and a steady roll out through the neutral zone.

The breakaway on yesterday's stage 17 formed after only two kilometres of racing, it was a little later today but 24 riders went clear within the first 40kilometres and quickly developed a lead of over three minutes.

With 70kilometres covered the twenty-four leaders had over ten minutes on the main field. The first 170kilometres of today’s stage were pan flat and the peloton were allowing the breakaway group complete freedom.

At the halfway point the twenty-four escapees still had over ten minutes on the field and were maintaining a high average speed of 48kph. Etixx-Quickstep were represented in the breakaway by Gianluca Brambilla and Trentin but it was Daniel Oss (BMC) who was the most active rider at the front of the race.

The leaders had pushed their advantage out to over twelve minutes with 50kilometres to go and the peloton showing no sign of any interest in the chase. All the race favourites were packed in tightly at the front of the bunch surrounded by their respective teammates and content to let LottoNL-Jumbo control the tempo.

Stage 17 winner Roger Kluge (IAM-Cycling) attacked from the breakaway group with 40kilometres left and was followed by Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff). Brutt pushed on alone for a few kilometres and held a ten second lead over Oss group until the first passage of the finish in Pinerolo with 25kilometres to go.

A select group of around nine riders, including Brambilla and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) attacked on the steep, cobbled San Maurizio climb, and split the front of the race apart. Moser and Brambilla developed a gap of 20seconds and pushed on up the second category climb.

The peloton was also splitting apart as sections of the climb reached gradients of 20%. ORICA-GreenEDGE had kept Chaves safe all day long, but now the Colombian along with the other favourites was off the front of the bunch led by race leader Kruijswijk. The group thinned out further on the Pramartino climb as more riders were dropped out the back.

Brambilla and Moser raced on alone and an epic sprint ensued on the second passing of the San Maurizio climb with both riders fighting for the advantage. The chasing Trentin caught the wheel of teammate Brambilla with 500metres to go and launched a sprint that Moser had no response to. Trentin won the stage with the Chaves/Kruijswijk group still eleven minutes behind.

The favourites all finished together meaning no change to the general classification ahead of tomorrow’s stage 19.

Stage 19 sees the race return to the mountains and the ‘Cima Coppi’, the Colle dell’Agnello. Covering 162kilometres from Pinerolo to Risoul the race starts in Italy and finishes in France. The majority of the race is taken up with the climb and the descent of the ‘Agnello’ before another tough climb up to the summit finish in Risoul.

Giro d’Italia stage 18 results:

1. Matteo Trentin (Etixx-Quickstep) 05:25:34
2. Moreno Moser (Cannondale) ST
3. Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep) ST
4. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-GreenEDGE)   

General classification after stage 18:

1. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo)
2. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 00:03:00 
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 00:03:23