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Giro d'Italia stage 18 – Live coverage

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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. 

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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.

Giulio Ciccone out of Giro d'Italia due to stage 17 crash (opens in new tab)

SEGA DI ALA ITALY MAY 26 Giulio Ciccone of Italy and Team Trek Segafredo during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 17 a 193km stage from Canazei to Sega di Ala 1246m UCIworldtour girodiitalia Giro on May 26 2021 in Sega di Ala Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

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.    

Schultz fractures hand in Giro d'Italia crash (opens in new tab)

SEGA DI ALA ITALY MAY 26 Nicholas Schultz of Australia Simon Yates of United Kingdom and Team BikeExchange during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 17 a 193km stage from Canazei to Sega di Ala 1246m UCIworldtour girodiitalia Giro on May 26 2021 in Sega di Ala Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

Egan Bernal's name not on the trophy just yet at Giro d'Italia after Sega di Ala time loss (opens in new tab)

TOPSHOT Team Ineos rider Colombias Daniel Martinez Front encourages his teammate overall leader Team Ineos rider Colombias Egan Bernal L as they ride along with Team Bahrain rider Italys Damiano Caruso Rear R in the last ascent during the 17th stage of the Giro dItalia 2021 cycling race 193km between Canazei and Sega di Ala on May 26 2021 Photo by Luca Bettini POOL AFP Photo by LUCA BETTINIPOOLAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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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.

Alaphilippe set to make Tour de Suisse debut ahead of Tour de France (opens in new tab)

MUR DE HUY BELGIUM APRIL 21 Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team Deceuninck QuickStep sprint on arrival during the 85th La Fleche Wallonne 2021 Men Elite a 1936km race from Charleroi to Mur de Huy 204m FlecheWallonne on April 21 2021 in Mur de Huy Belgium Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

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.

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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.

Stage 18

(Image credit: RCS Sport)

There are 77km to race now. However  this is not a simple sprint stage as the ripples in the profile below shows.   

Stage 18

(Image credit: RCS Sport)

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. T