Buongiorno and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia.
As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height, the final riders are signing on in Rovereto and lining up for the start.
The sun is out for the 231km stage to Stradella near Milan. It is the longest stager of this year's Giro.
The stage is arguably a transfer stage, taking the Giro from Trentino and the mountains across the Lombardy plain to south of Milan.
However lots of riders will be attacking to get in the break of the day, while Peter Sagan will be trying to score points in defence of his cyclamen points jersey.
There are several short climbs in the final kilometres of the stage, adding an extra twist.
After yesterday's attacks, Bernal's suffering and crashes, the GC riders will try to rest up as much as possible before the final two mountain stages and Sunday's final time trial to Milan.
Bernal is lined-up at the front of the start area, alongside Sagan, white jersey wearer Vlasov, yesterday's stage winner Dan Martin and the blue mountains jersey wearer Geoffrey Bouchard.
📌 RoveretoToday's Stage starts from @mart_museum 😍La tappa di oggi parte dal @mart_museum 😍#Giro pic.twitter.com/6XZqnKwpJRMay 27, 2021
#Giro 🇮🇹Onto the next one!Stage 18 coming up! pic.twitter.com/2Duj360DVOMay 27, 2021
Before the 231km stage, the riders face a 4.4km neutralised sector out of town.
The riders are packed tight in the slipstream of the race director's car.
In some breaking news, Giulio Ciccone has opted not to start stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia due to his injuries he suffered in the high-speed crash during Wednesday’s stage to Sega di Ala.
The Italian was hit from behind on the descent to the foot of the final climb. He got going and caught the peloton only to be dropped on the climb to the finish. Vincenzo Nibali and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier were also involved in the same crash and struggled to make it to the finish.
On Thursday morning the team had initially announced that all three riders would start stage 18 from Rovereto to Stradella but after riding briefly and signing on, Ciccone opted not to continue.
Click below for the full story.
Fortunately Nibali is able to race on and save something for Trek in this year's Corsa Rosa.
Race director Stefano Allocchio waves his flag, the stage starts and the attacks start straight away.
The opening kilometres are on wide, fast roads than descend slightly in the valley towards Verona and the bottom of Lake Garda.
We can see six riders on the attack but the peloton shuts them down.
The whole peloton is moving and evolving like a swarm of bees.
Riders are attacking at 60km/h to try to get away.
With Remco Evenepeol out of the Giro and Almeida not really a GC contender, the Deceuninck riders are free to try to get into the break.
Alberto Bettiol (EF) also has the freedom to target the stage victory and has joined several surges. However it is again gruppo compatto.
The race is following the Adige river, the Brennero autostrada and is cutting through the vineyards and apple orchards.
The intermediate sprint which awards the points for the cyclamen jersey comes after 134km in Cremona. If Peter Sagan and his rivals want to score points, they will have to close down any attacks for the sprint.
220km to go
Three riders are on the move:
Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo)
Max Richeze (UAE Team Emirates)
They are chased down.
The pace eases but only for a second.
Mosca is now trying for Trek as they try to bounce back from Ciccone's DNS.
Mosca is with Fabio Felline of Astana.
We have an attack of 20 or so riders but it seems too big to succeed.
Attacks go, they are caught and so the peloton eases until the next attack comes.
Qhubeka Assos can be seen trying in the attacks, as are Alpecin.
Peter Sagan and Fernando Gaviria are locked in their own battle for the points jersey. They are closely marking each other in their friendly rivarly.
The race has crossed from Trentino into the Veneto region but the landscape stays the same and so do the attacks.
Intermarche and Bardiani are constantly sending riders on the attack but each time they are chased down by other teams.
There are 147 riders left in the Giro, as well as Ciccone, Evenepoel, Nick Schultz of BikeExchange is also out of the race after crashing.
Click below to read our full story on that affects Simon Yates.
200km to go
We have a big break on the move. It could be the one.
There are 23 riders in the move and they have a 15-second gap.
The peloton is chasing but some riders ready to let them go.
But who is in the attack? Lets dive down and check their numbers.
Behind Bora (for Sagan) and Ineos (for Bernal) are trying to disrupt any chase.
Cavagna, Bettiol, Consonni, Bevin, Oldani, Cataldo, Hirt, Roche, Mosca, Richeze and Ulissi are part of the break.
Nikia Arndt is there for DSM and is perhaps the fastest in an eventual sprint finish.
Some how Qhubeka Assos missed the move.
Sagan and Bora are marshalling any surges from Qhuebaka and Groupama riders.
The gap is up to 20 seconds.
Movistar are also trying to slow the chase. They are happy to have riders in the attack.
190km to go
The 23-rider break is riding in a double pace line, every rider doing at least some of the work on the front.
The gap is up to 25 seconds but the peloton has not eased up yet.
🇮🇹 #Giro Une échappée avec 23 coureurs est en train de partir. Dedans, on retrouve Simone Consonni 💪🏁 193 km pic.twitter.com/vWi5XZ0TzzMay 27, 2021
Dries de Bont of Alpecin tries to move but it will be difficult.
Other riders join them but here comes the peloton. The 23 still lead by 25 seconds.
Ineos are also on the front of the peloton. But to slow down any chase.
They let Koen Bouwmen sneak away alone try to close down the rest of the pack.
But others force their way through.
Deceuninck say it right.
Ok, so we are 50 kilometers into the stage and only 20 seconds separate the #Giro breakaway from the bunch. It has been crazy fast so far.May 27, 2021
180km to go
It's been a super fast 50km and the gap is only 35 seconds.
Ganna, Sagan and Oss are trying to dissuade the chase.
It is working, the gap is up to 45 seconds.
The riders are in Lazise and can see the huge lake. But there is little time to enjoy any of it. The pace is still high.
175km to go
That's it. The peloton eases this time, seemingly giving up the chase.
In just 4km the gap has gone up to 2:00.
Lots of riders in the peloton have stopped for a natural break.
They include Sagan and 20 or so others.
Meanwhile, the 23 attackers push on to extend their lead to 3:50.
These are the 23 attackers:
Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën), Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Fenix), Simon Pellaud, Andrii Ponomar, Natnael Tesfatsion (Androni-Sidermec), Samuele Battistella, Gorka Izagirre (Astana-PremierTech), Filippo Zana (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Simone Consonni (Cofidis), Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Alberto Bettiol (EF-Nippo), Francesco Gavazzi, Samuele Rivi (EOLO-Kometa), Wesley Kreder (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Patrick Bevin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Stefano Oldani (Lotto Soudal), Dario Cataldo (Movistar), Nikias Arndt, Nico Denz, Nicolas Roche (Team DSM), Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo), Alessandro Covi, Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates).
it will be interesting to see who will lead the chase and what gap they will let the break have.
It is likely to be Ineos but the break could open a gap of double figures.
Indeed Filippo Ganna takes up position on the front as Bernal returns up to the head of the peloton.
There are some interesting rider in the break, with several teams having a numbers of riders there, to help out their selected leader.
UAE are likely to ride for Ulissi, while DSM have Roche and Denz to help Arndt.
However Gorka Izagirre (Astana-PremierTech), Simone Consonni (Cofidis), Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Alberto Bettiol (EF-Nippo), Stefano Oldani (Lotto Soudal) and Dario Cataldo (Movistar) are all strong.
Consonni and Oldani are fast while the others are always aggressive and race smart.
152km to go
The gap the break is up to 6:30.
The Ineos riders take 2 musettes for an early feed.
The break has pushed their lead out to 7:00. They have eased the pace slightly, knowing that the peloton will also ease in their chase.
This was the view as the stage blasted down the valley and the break tried to get away.
💗Giro d'Italia 2021 - Stage 1⃣8⃣📌 Pozzolengo - km 69 ☀️🚴♂️Break | Fuga ⏱️ 4'58" > Peloton | Gruppo💻 Live: https://t.co/j8ggiiKeUQ🏁 162 km#Giro pic.twitter.com/7nvOCtuRvCMay 27, 2021
The riders are cutting diagonally across the Lombardy plain towards Cremona.
They were near here two weeks ago in the early stages of the race. A lot of fatigue has passed through the riders legs since then.
Stage 4 started in Piacenza and finished in the Apennines at Sestola, with Joe Dombrowski (UAE) winning from the break in the rain.
Alessandro De Marchi (ISN) took the pink jersey but he lost it two days later and then crashed out on the stage to Bagno di Romagna.
Dombrowski was unfortunate to crash the day after his win, in the final kilometres of the stage to Cattolica.
Back in the race and the gap has grown to 8:20 as Ganna and Puccio swap off on the front.
Everyone is sat in their slipstream and enjoying the ride to Stradella.
Peter Sagan and his Bora team were happy to see a big break go away.
That neutralised the risk of any rivalry in the cyclamen points jersey. Sagan leads with 135 points. Cimolai has 113 and Gaviria is third. However the break will reach the intermediate sprint and so sweep up the points and are highly likely to do the same at the finish.
None of the riders well placed in the points competition are likely to score points in the next two mountain stages and in the final time trial. That means Sagan has 'only' to reach Milan to add his first cyclamen jersey to his seven Tour de France green jerseys.
The GC battle is equally established but perhaps more open after Bernal suffered yesterday.
Bernal remains 2:21 ahead of Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), Yates has moved up to third and closed to within 3:23 after he dropped the Colombian and clawed back 53 seconds – plus bonuses – of his deficit on the most demanding climb of the Giro to date.
However the finishes at Alpe di Mera and Alpe Motta are real tests for Bernal and Ineos.
Click below to read Barry Ryan's analysis.
🇮🇹 #Giro L'écart continue de grandir pour l'échappée de Simone Consonni. 9 minutes d'avance désormais pour le groupe de 23 coureurs🏁 130 km📸 @GettySport pic.twitter.com/zIHZ97mVbpMay 27, 2021
120km to go
After 110km of racing, the break has pushed out their lead to 10:00.
Riders in the break enjoy lunch as they pass through the feed zone in Pessina on the road to Cremona.
The race is riding through open fields at the moment but there is no wind today, with the sun out and the riders enjoying the 23C temps.
Filippo Ganna is still riding on the front of the peloton, setting a steady tempo.
110km to go
The break is 13km from the intermediate sprint point.
It's lunch time in the peloton too, with the Ineos riders grabbing their orange musettes.
They replace their bidons, throw the empty ones in the litter zone and see what food they have.
There are some fans waiting to collect the bidons as a much desired souvenir.
Ganna grabbed 2 musettes, one for him and one for Bernal.
In other news, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) will forgo the Critérium du Dauphiné for the first time in his career, instead choosing to build up for the Tour de France at the Tour de Suisse which kicks off in Frausenfeld on June 6.
Click below to read the full story.
103km to go
We're nearing the 100km to go mark now. 10:45 for the breakaway at the moment.
A quiet period of the sprint is interrupted by the intermediate sprint. Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Fenix) takes it. He's protecting the classification lead of teammate Dries De Bondt there.
Vermeersch was defending from Pellaud, who is third in that competition.
12 minutes now for the break. It looks certain for them to succeed today, with 90km left to run.
'We are already working on finding an alternative solution' announces UEC president Enrico Della Casa
The peloton cross the long iron bridge over the Po after Cremona.
They are now 13:00 down on the break.
This is the map of stage 18, showing the long ride from Rovereto to Stradella.
There are 77km to race now. However this is not a simple sprint stage as the ripples in the profile below shows.
In the final 35km, there are four short but testing climbs in the hills around Stradella, which could spark attacks and a real selection in the 23-rider break.
That's why the likes of Bettiol, Ulissi, Roche and Vermeersch are in the move and fancy their chances.
The pace is so steady in the peloton is that Egan Bernal drops back to his team car to get a bidon and chat to DS Matteo Tosatto and Oli Cookson.
Up front the break continues to gain time and work well together.
There's no need to talk, the riders go through and off in a double pace line.
Bernal has four riders riding in front of him at the head of the peloton. That protects him from the wind and from any crashes or problems.
After Cremona the stage has dipped into Emilia Romagna to pass through Piacenza.
There are 63km to race.
Bettiol stops for a rear wheel change. But there's no panic.
The mechanic is quick to change the disc wheel and pushes off Bettiol. He also gets a sticky bottle to help him get back up to speed.
The pace is still steady but with 55km to go the finale for the break is about to start.
Bernal can enjoy a quieter day, with the peloton expected to roll into Stradella.
Unless Simon Yates goes on the attack in the late hills.
50km to go
As the Giro d'Italia nears 3000km raced, today's stage enters into the final 50km.
The speed is rising in the attack.
Teams are taking on a final bidon from a domestique before the speed rises.
It's a pleasant 25C at the moment in the race.
Right now, the Giro has just covered its 3000th kilometre.In questo momento il Giro ha percorso il suo chilometro numero 3000. #Giro pic.twitter.com/bSRPfqjR0cMay 27, 2021
Bettiol drops back to the team car to clean his glasses and talk tactics.
He seems to sense this could be his stage.
The climbs start in 10km.
Someone will surely attack on the first climb.
In many ways today's stage is like Milan-San Remo in a Grand Tour.
It's very flat for most of the day, with then a series of climbs in the finale that will see the race explode.
40km to go
The riders in the break have emptied their pockets in the green zone in preparation for the attacks.
Ineos are still leading the peloton, 15:25 down on the 23-rider break.
Today's finish town Stradella also played host to a memorable victory for Max Sciandri, now directing Movistar on the race, in the 1994 Giro, when the Italo-British all-rounder got the measure of no less a sprint star than Djamolidine Abdoujaparov.
Will that mean it is Movistar's day?
33km to go and break begins the first climb. Instead of a double line, the rider are spread across the road waiting for the first attack.
Here we go! Attack
Battistella (Astana) and Filippo Zana (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) jump away on the narrow country road.
The hills roll through the vineyards.
Other riders are on the move.
Denz joins the two but the rest of the attack joins them.
Bevin in the next to attack.
Roche and Bettiol are moving too.
The categorised climb is splitting the break.
Also there are Oldani, Roche and Izagirre.
Six riders have a gap on the rest of the break.
They're at 15 seconds.
The six are: Roche, Bettiol, Mosca, Bevin, Izagirre and Oldani.
Can they stay away?
Bettiol is upping the pace and hurting Izagirre.
Some of the riders in the chase are the wrong kind of rider for these rolling hills.
Cataldo is trying to come across at speed.
We're entering the final 35km with a trio of sharp climbs to finish the stage. The day will belong to the break, which has a 16 minute lead, but the Grenadiers are pacing the peloton behind #Giro pic.twitter.com/eTvAUMptNqMay 27, 2021
The attack comes back and so Cavagna tries a move.
He's going for it!
The road is climbing but Cavagna is flattening the gradient.
25km to go
Cavagna has gone into TT mode. He will be hard to catch.
Cavagna has opened a 15-second lead.
Roche and Bettiol are chasing him on the 5km Castana climb.
The break is exploding behind as other riders attack.
Cavagna leads by 25 seconds as the other chase down each other.
Cavagna leads by 20 seconds at the Castana KOM.
Cavagna dives down the descent.
Out front alone, he can choose the best lines and use all the road.
It won't be easy to catch him. He tucks into a low TT position again and powers away.
Remember that Cavagna is the current French TT champion.
Now Denz, Cataldo and Mosca are trying to pull back the Frenchman on the descent.
Back on the main road and a chase group forms. But will they work together?
15km to go
This is the chance for the chasers to go after Cavagna but he is time trialing his way to the finish.
He is pushing a big gear and keeping a low profile as he cuts through the air at 60km/h.
Only the climbs can slow him but he seems to have the power to dominate them.
As Cavagna starts the next climb, he leads the chasers by 30 seconds.
Denz cracks, so does Bevin.
Bettiol takes off alone in pursuit of Cavagna.
💗Giro d'Italia 2021 - Stage 1⃣8⃣🚴♂️ @remicav ⏱️ 35" > Chasers | Inseguitori⏱️ 18'00" > Peloton | Gruppo💻 Live: https://t.co/j8ggij1PMo🏁 15 km#Giro pic.twitter.com/ThtfBGfOnlMay 27, 2021
Cavagna is not slowing at all.
Bettiol can see him and is closing. He's at 12 seconds. Time to go all in Alberto!
Seven other riders are a little behind Bettiol.
Cavagna is diving down the country roads between the Oltrepo Pavese vines.
Bettiol is 200m behind Cavagna. Roche is trying to join Bettiol.
Bettiol is also a good time trialist and will need his power and skills to close the 10-second gap.
Nico Roche joins Bettiol.
10km to go.
Cavagni takes a last drink. Bettiol and Roche are at 12 seconds.
The Bernal peloton is at a massive 19:30.
Cavagna dives into Broni, for the final climb.
It will be make or break for the Frenchman.
Roche is struggling to stay with Bettiol.
Cavagna is tired but is not at his limit. He is pacing his attack well.
Bettiol drops Roche and is only 10 seconds behind Cavagna now.
This will be a race to the finish line.
Bettiol is on the big ring and can see Cavagna ahead of him.
Bettiol is only 50m down on Cavagna.
Cavagna eases slightly and prepares for a different final strategy.
7km to go.
Bettiol pushes on to try to drop Cavagna.
Bettiol is alone.
This is the final 5km. it's all downhill.
Cavagna cracked after his big effort. Bettiol timed it perfectly.
Bettiol suffered with health problems during the winter but fought back to secure a place in the EF Giro team.
Bettiol seems tired but the roads is descending.
Roche is 17 seconds back with other chasers not far away either.
Bettiol has to go all out all the way to the line.
4km to go.
Bettiol spins his legs and takes a good line on the curves.
He's at 70km/h.
2km to go.
Bettiol is back on the flat road.
Roche is struggling to close the gap.
Bettiol is on the way to victory, surely.
Behind the chasers are playing games. They've lost their chance.
Here comes Bettiol.
Bettiol eases, he knows he will win.
He sits up and waves to the crowd to cheer him.
Bettiol vents his joy and anger as he crosses the line.
Behind Consonni comes late to take second just ahead of Roche.
Meanwhile the peloton is at 15km to go.
"I really wanted this one," Bettiol said.
"I’d missed out a couple of chances and so I needed this. It’s really difficult to get into the break in the third week but I know I can do well when my legs arebetter than my luck."
This is the top ten for the stage.
1 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-Nippo 5:14:43
2 Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis 0:0:17
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team DSM
4 Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM
5 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
6 Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
7 Filippo Zana (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
8 Natnael Tesfazion (Eri) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
9 Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:0:24
10 Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:12
Remi Cavagna made a huge effort to try to win but Bettiol got across to him and wet solo.
"It was the plan today. We wanted to take the last opportunity before the the time trial. We tried. Maybe it was a bit far out. They took me back. I didn't know the finish and I couldn't hang on to it. It's a shame but I was at the front," he said.
"I was mentally feeling good. I didn't know how much time I had so it's a little bit frustrating. It wasn't easy against everybody in that break today. There were too many good riders and teams, and a lot of teams with more than one rider which never makes it easy. I was surprised I could go when I did. I tried, but someday there'll be another opportunity for me. We'll see what happens then.
Bettiol blew kisses to the sky, perhaps remembering his agent Mauro Battaglini who died during the winter.
Bettiol is emotional as he recalls Battaglini after his win.
"I really wanted this one," Bettiol said.
"I’d missed out a couple of chances and so I needed this. It’s really difficult to get into the break in the third week but I know I can do well when my legs are better than my luck."
Simone Consonni gaves his all but finished second.
"The last kilometres were pretty messy. It was hard on the climbs, I survived them, took them at my pace," he said.
"In the last kilometres from the end I could see Roche and I attacked. I thought Bettiol was incredible. A nice second place for me. I gave 100 per cent and I drove myself on."
"I wanted to win to show that I have my say. It didn't work out but I think I've had a good Giro. I helped Elia Viviani in the sprints and got a fourth and a second place.
Meanwhile, the peloton is 5km from the finish, 17 minutes after Bettiol won.
The GC riders and the peloton are not taking any risks on the twisting descent.
Alberto Bettiol has only won three races but they include the 2018 Tour of Flanders, this Giro stage and a TT at the Etoile des Besseges.
Here comes the peloton. They finish 23:30 down on Bettiol after taking the stage steady to rest up for the final mountain stages on Friday and Sunday.
#Giro 🇮🇹Day done ✅ The boys roll home safely in the bunch 👍It’s back into the mountains tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/f2UKueZ6PPMay 27, 2021
Egan Bernal spoke briefly about the steady ride to Stradella and the finale of the Giro.
"It was a long day but we tried to recover as much as possible, I think we did.
"The finale of Giro will be very difficult. We’ve got a block of three days that will decide the Giro. We’ll try to do our best, we’ve got two hard mountain stages and then the time trial.
"We’ve got a gap but we saw a bad day can cost you everything. We’ve got to ride with our heads and not lose everything we’ve gained so far. If I could have attacked in the past, I did. Now I don’t need to do attack. I can trust my teammates."
Bettiol was emotional when he won.
To see our full stage report, full results and growing photo gallery, click below.
Peter Sagan climbs on the podium with the cyclamen-coloured points jersey.
With the break sweeping up all the points today and his rivals unlikely to take points in the final three stages, Sagan has all but sealed victory in the points competition and only had to reach Milan.
Geoffrey Bouchard (Citroen-AG2R) leads the mountains competition and faces a fight to win on Friday and Saturday.
Thanks for joining us for full live coverage of stage 18.
We'll be back on Friday for full coverage of stage 19 to Alpe di Mera.
It's time to see if anyone can try to topple Egan Bernal in the final mountain stages in the Italian Alps, with back to back mountain finishes.
Don't miss a minute with our full live coverage.
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