Breakaway holds off the sprinters to contest the win in Treviso
White jersey Juan Pedro López loses three minutes in split
Jai Hindley suffers late puncture but holds GC second place due to 3km rule
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia.
Around 20 minutes to the start of the stage, and it's a day for the fastmen after several stages in the high mountains where they will have suffered greatly.
Of course, before we talk about the sprinters and today's stage, the big news of the morning is that João Almeida is out of the race and out of fourth place after testing positive for COVID-19.
Almeida lost 1:10 to race leader Richard Carapaz and second-placed Jai Hindley on Wednesday's mountain stage to Lavarone.
UAE Team Emirates DS told Cyclingnews at the start of today's stage that the team had thought Almeida was simply just on a bad day, but the Portuguese rider woke up in the night with a bad throat.
"We thought it was just a bad day," Baldato said. "He told us at the beginning of the climb he was not great and please guys support me as much as you can. In the car we screamed all the way up the climb with him.
"He was great up to the end, suffering and losing more time on the flat part than on the climb. In the end it's easy to say yes for sure that's the reason. It wouldn't be the first time in the past two years that COVID-19 has affected a rider's performance."
Anyway, back to today and it's a short day in the saddle at 156km. That's the reason for the late start for stage 18.
After three days in the high mountains, and the brutal day in Turin before that, today is a far gentler affair, with just two fourth-category climbs on the menu.
We're just under 10 minutes from the stage start now.
Here's a look at the stage results from yesterday and the GC standings heading into today's stage.
And here's a look at the map of today's stage. It's a day in the valley and then onto the flatlands of Veneto into Treviso.
The stage does end with a circuit – just two laps, though. At least the riders will get to see the finish before the dash for the line.
The final run to the line is not too technical, just two bends inside the final 2km and the last 1km is a straight run to the finish.
The riders have started the roll-out of 3.6km to start stage 18.
It's not surprising to see that Mathieu van der Poel wears the red number of the most combative rider today. Will he be part of the sprint for the line later on, too?
🇮🇹 #GiroWell deserved 🔥@mathieuvdpoel is our 3rd most combative rider of the day in this @giroditalia, after @StefanOldani_ (stage 4) and @Bondteke (stage 11). pic.twitter.com/G8mx3K5leDMay 26, 2022
156km to go
The flag has dropped and the racing is underway. The battle for the break begins.
Alpecin-Fenix, Eolo-Kometa, Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli, Jumbo-Visma, Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè all active at the front.
Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) leading the way currently.
151km to go
Magnus Cort (EF) and Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) attacking now.
A couple more riders make the jump, too.
Affini and Davide Gabburo (Bardiani) have jumped across to De Bondt and Cort.
The gap is small, though.
147km to go
14 seconds between them and the peloton.
De Bondt, Affini, Gabburo, Cort trying to drive this on.
The sprint teams like Groupama-FDJ and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl would be happy to see this go. They're blocking the front of the peloton at the moment along with DSM.
Now the gap is going up quickly. 45 seconds and counting.
Van der Poel and Gijs Leemreize chat near the rear of the peloton following their big battle in the break yesterday.
143km to go
Now the blocking at the front has been broken and a rider from Eolo-Kometa is trying to get away.
Here's a look back at yesterday's stage, which saw Bahrain Victorious rider Santiago Buitrago take the win.
140km to go
A minute up to the breakaway now.
It looks like it's over and nobody else is going to get up the road now.
1:50 now for the breakaway.
135km to go
QuickStep, DSM, FDJ among the teams controlling the peloton.
132km to go
Ignatas Konovalovas leading the peloton for Groupama-FDJ. 2:05 up to the break.
The breakaway men are now on the first fourth-category climb of the day – Le Scale di Primolano (2.3km at 4.7%).
De Bondt leads the way. They won't contest the points here.
De Bont leads Affini over the top. No sprint for the top.
QuickStep, FDJ, and DSM are controlling the gap at two minutes here.
It's set to be a pretty quiet day out today. Not a whole lot to fight for beyond the final sprint. It's not one of those long, drab 200km+ stages, at least.
Today we're likely to see a sprint finish involving the likes of Arnaud Démare, Mark Cavendish, Alberto Dainese, Phil Bauhaus, Fernando Gaviria, and more.
Cavendish is reportedly seeking a new team for 2023 as he hopes to keep on racing, while his QuickStep team look certain to sign up Tim Merlier.
Yesterday, Eurosport pundit and ex-pro Bradley Wiggins told Cyclingnews that Cavendish definitely deserves a place in the peloton for next season.
120km to go
Still 2:05 for the breakaway. And still, the same teams are in control behind.
QuickStep, FDJ, DSM at the head of the peloton.
114km to go
The break now has 2:20. Not much change in the situation.
UAE Team Emirates also working at the front of the peloton.
De Bondt, Affini, Gabburo, and Cort are still working well out front.
De Bondt and Affini have had a few conversations, while the Italian has just had a few words on the radio. Maybe about their very limited advantage so far?
They have been speeding along so far and maybe they think there's little point in doing so, wearing themselves out while the peloton is matching their pace anyway.
110km to go
Meanwhile, Rui Costa is pushing hard on the front of the peloton.
Now just 1:45 to the break...
46.3kph average speed so far. Now the peloton has split up a little as Costa ups the pace.
Here's a look at the current breakaway with Gabburo at the front.
Groupama-FDJ lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri is asking Costa what he's doing very animatedly.
This is a weird spell in the stage...
107km to go
1:15 for the break now.
Still a few seconds here and there come off the lead. DSM, FDJ, QuickStep back on the front now.
Out front the breakaway riders are still discussing the situation among themselves.
104km to go
It's still 1:15. The break have knocked it off a little.
The thinking it that the peloton will have to do the same unless they want to make the catch and have to go through another stint of controlling more attacks for another breakaway.
Now it's back up to 1:30. Rui Costa is back among the men at the front of the peloton but not pushing hard as he was before.
100km to go
Now the riders are passing the 100km mark and the situation remains the same.
Things have calmed down after that weird spell of the race. The gap is back up to 1:40 now.
94km to go
Frankly not much going on right now. Still 1:38 from the break to the peloton.
Another look at the breakaway today, with Cort leading Affini here.
A year ago today Dan Martin won his final race as a pro atop the summit finish of Sega di Ala.
You can reminisce about the Irishman's victory with our stage report here
1 whole year has passed since I somehow managed to win stage 17 of the @giroditalia Where does the time go? Incredible memory and not a bad ‘last race I won was . . . . ‘ pic.twitter.com/BxWZnIeV1yMay 26, 2022
86km to go
Back to today's race and the gap is down to 1:12. Still the same four breakaway men up front.
The riders aren't far from the halfway mark of the day.
The four breakaway men are also closing in on the stage's first intermediate sprint at Valdobbiadene.
Gabburo leads Affini, De Bondt, and Cort across the sprint point.
Cavendish and Démare are chatting at the head of the peloton as they pass through the sprint point.
The Frenchman grabs four points to Cavendish's three. Not sure what they were discussing there..
Things have slowed in the peloton and now the gap to the break is back up to 1:50.
79km to go
The gap is fluctuating between around 1:35 and 1:50 here. The sprint squads are happy to hold the four breakaway men on a tight leash.
73km to go
Just 1:05 now for the breakaway as the peloton speed up once again.
A look at Démare in the peloton as his team Groupama-FDJ, and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl in the foreground, lead the way.
69km to go
And now the gap is back up to 1:25.
It's up to 1:50 now. The break's advantage is all over the place but it doesn't change the state of the race much either way.
It's still the same teams working at the front. Groupama-FDJ, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, Team DSM, UAE Team Emirates.
61km to go
2:35 for the break now as the peloton slows down a little.
5km to go until the second and last fourth-category climb of the day.
The Muro di Ca' del Poggio is 1.1km long at 12.3% with a max gradient of 19%.
Will anything happen on the climb?