Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia 2021 is the longest single stage of the race with 231 kilometres ahead. An ‘old-fashioned’ stage, if you will, the majority of the route is flat. However, multiple short pitches in the final 25 kilometres will shake things up.
Stage 17 saw the Sega di Ala climb make its Giro d’Italia debut, and what a debut it was. Dan Martin won from the breakaway to complete the trilogy of Grand Tour stage wins. Behind, Simon Yates attacked Egan Bernal and cracked the Colombian for the first time.
Bernal dropped back and gave up one minute to Yates, who has now jumped to third in the GC. Alex Vlasov, Hugh Carthy and Romain Bardet make up the next spots in the overall standings but all lost time and are over six minutes behind.
Giro d'Italia Stage 18 profile
Starting in Rovereto, the longest stage of the 2021 Giro d’Italia awaits. However, the first 200km are almost featureless. An intermediate sprint in Cremona is the first point of note and doesn’t occur until kilometre 134.
Monte Beccaria peaks 201 kilometres into the stage, but at 3.4km and just 4%, it is uncategorised. A quick descent leads into the only categorised climb. The Castana climb is only 5.3km and 3.9% on average. At these percentages, some of the stronger sprinters will be confident that they can follow the wheels. Following the short descent from the peak of Castana, just under 15km will remain.
Although the Cicognola hill is short, it’s the steepest section of the entire stage and therefore provides the perfect launchpad for the pure punchers to make their bid — the 1.4km ascent averages 7.5%. The road immediately dives downhill again where a bonus seconds sprint is found in Broni. Here, just 8.9km are left.
Immediately following the sprint, the road punches uphill one final time at an average gradient of 5.7% for 2.6km. This is the final opportunity for the riders to make a difference. From here, the road heads downhill to the finish in Stradella. The descent is almost straight with some minor kinks and roundabouts the only real obstacles.
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Stage 18 is set to host a battle between the sprinters that remain at the Giro and the riders attacking early. Bora-Hansgrohe may see this as a real opportunity to double up on Peter Sagan’s victory on stage 10. After Emanuel Buchmann left the race, they have no GC ambitions so could be willing to invest heavily in the Slovak for a chance at the stage. The German team put on a clinic when delivering Sagan to the line in a reduced group on stage 10. However, with 200 kilometres of flat terrain it may be difficult even for Bora to control alone.
The other key sprinters still here that could be motivated are Elia Viviani, Fernando Gaviria and Davide Cimolai. With only mountains and time trialling left after this stage, this is definitively their final chance. However, Israel Start-Up have limited numbers which hurts Cimolai’s odds, whilst Viviani and Gaviria may be less confident in their ability on the hills. All of these reasons mean the early breakaway or late attackers have a great chance.
If the sprinter’s teams aren’t willing to tempo for 200km to give their fast man a chance, what is their alternative? What if they join the breakaway? This may be a tactic that Peter Sagan, Fernando Gaviria and Davide Cimolai employ and may be their only chance at ending victorious. However, with major maglia ciclamino points available in Cremona at kilometre 134, they may all need to move up the road together for the group to stand a chance.
UAE Team Emirates won stage 4 with Joe Dombrowski but that seems like a lifetime ago now. They’d love to add a second to ensure their Giro can be considered a success. Diego Ulissi, Davide Formolo, and Alessandro Covi are their main breakaway prospects and if Fernando Gaviria can join them up the road, they would pose a real threat.
Trek-Segafredo have been constantly on the offensive throughout the Giro and that is unlikely to change here. Bauke Mollema is one of the riders trying to complete the Grand Tour stage trilogy, with Tony Gallopin also seeking to do so. They may be inspired by Dan Martin, who was in the same boat as the aforementioned duo before he spectacularly won atop Sega di Ala on stage 17.
Lotto-Soudal are perhaps the only team in the race that can really complain of a numerical disadvantage. Caleb Ewan and Thomas De Gendt are among the riders that have departed since Turin, and only two red and black jerseys are left. Stefano Oldani and Harm Vanhoucke must fly the flag themselves — don’t be surprised to see the duo both join the breakaway.
Deceuninck Quick-Step’s GC challenge faded after Remco Evenepoel lost 20 minutes on the way to Cortina d’Ampezzo. After battling through the second rest day, a crash on the descent of the Passo di San Valentino means Remco will abandon his first Grand Tour. He may have turned to stage hunting over the final days, but Deceuninck’s have other options in Mikkel Honoré, Remi Cavagna and Pieter Serry. João Almeida is improving day by day and has risen to eighth overall in the GC, meaning he won't be allowed in breakaways at this point.
Other riders that could aim to join the breakaway with a view to victory are Quinten Hermans, Rudy Molard, Tony Gallopin, Jan Tratnik, Samuele Battistella, Dries De Bondt and Nikias Arndt.
Due to its length and tricky finale, stage 18 will be almost impossible for a single team to control. The others may force Bora-Hansgrohe into doing the lion's share of the work, but the German outfit can avoid that by placing Peter Sagan in the early breakaway, though this is harder said than done.
One of the stand-out performers on Sega di Ala was Diego Ulissi. The Italian is over an hour down in GC, but climbed to fourth on the stage from the peloton. He may have expended a lot of energy, but is clearly riding into sublime form. Ulissi has won a stage in five of the eight Giro d'Italias he's entered across his career and is our pick to win stage 18 in Stradella.
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