Giro d'Italia 2024 stage 18 preview - out of the mountains and onto the flat

After three tough days in the mountains, the sprinters will be relieved to see a stage with little elevation

Date: Thursday May 23, 2024
Distance: 178km
Start location: Fiera di Primiero
Finish location: Padua
Start time: 13:05 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:13 CET

Anyone who loves watching bike racing will understand the allure and awe that mountainous terrain can inspire. It’s not just the spectacle of riders racing up them, but the scenery itself, which humbles with its enormity just as it stuns with its beauty. This is a sentiment shared with many of the great poets over the ages, and the Euganean Hills that lie just south of today’s destination of Padua are an especially famous muse. In the fourteenth century an elderly Petrarch was moved by the peace and tranquillity here to settle in the village of Arquà until his death, and the village has since been renamed in his honour. And they have also captured the imagination of the English romantic poets, with Percy Shelley expressing how the view from up here moves him from despair to hope for Italy’s future amid the political turmoil at the time, in his 1818 poem ‘Lines Written among the Euganean Hills.’

Those hills will today only be appreciated as a picturesque backdrop to the finish rather than climbed up, as stage eighteen is to be an entirely flat affair. Though they set off from high in the Dolomites in the small village of Fiera di Primiero, from there they travel downhill out of the mountain range for a flat trek southward to Padua. In fact, after the minor bother of the category four Lamon hill, there isn’t a single other classified climb all day.

On their way to Padua, the riders of the Giro d'Italia will pass through the region where Prosecco originates. Although the actual village of Prosecco that gave the white wine its name is further to the east near Trieste, one of the two specific DOCG regions where the grape is grown is the Conegliano Valdobbiadene, through which the riders pass today. It’s been assigned UNESCO heritage status, and the vineyards make for stunning scenery, even if the riders pass through rather than climb any of them.

Anyone wishing to have a celebratory glass at the end of the day for winning the stage will have to be careful when navigating the streets of Padua. This is a very old town, boasting a long history from 14th century frescoes painted by proto-renaissance artist Giotto and the world’s oldest botanical gardens dating back to the 16th century. Much of the final kilometres are however spent on the long, straight Strade Statali, and there is only one 90-degree left-hander just after the Flamme Rouge and another a few hundred metres later going right to navigate before the finishing straight on Prato della Valle. Positioning will still be important, but this isn’t too technical a run-in for the sprinters to worry about.

giro d'italia stage 18 profile
Stage profile sourced via the Giro d'Italia website


The sprinters – or those of them who still remain in this race – will be breathing a sigh of relief at the sight of stage 18's profile. This is finally another chance for the fast men to have a shot at victory after a tough couple of days battling through the mountains. The difficulty of the days that have preceded this sprint stage could also have an impact on the sprinters who are in contention for the win, as some will have recovered better than others from the efforts of the past week. 

The current maglia ciclamino wearer, Jonathan Milan of Lidl-Trek, starts as the big favourite to win stage 18. The Italian rider has three stage wins to his name in this race already, and looks to have his leadout train dialled to perfection. His rivals won't make it easy for Milan to take another victory today, however, and Tim Merlier of Soudal–Quick-Step won't have wanted to suffer through the mountains for nothing. The Belgian has managed to beat Milan once in this race already on stage three to Fossano and has a good shot at doing the same today, though it will depend on how he is feeling after so many days in the hills.

Caleb Ewan of Jayco-Alula is one of the big sprinters who remains in this race but is yet to secure a stage win. His best result so far is sixth place on the sprint stage to Lucca a few weeks ago, and Ewan will be keen to better this before the Giro d'Italia comes to a close. His Jayco teammates have been extremely committed to the 29-year-old in this race, so the pressure is on for Ewan to repay their efforts.

Sebastián Molano of UAE Team Emirates is also a rider who has a chance on stage 18, especially if he has maglia rosa wearer Tadej Pogačar leading him out again. Kaden Groves of Alpecin-Deceuninck has finished in second place twice at the Giro so far, so he's not far off a victory and has looked to be climbing well – his recovery from the mountain stages could be an asset today.  Fernando Gaviria (Movistar), Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) and Alberto Dainese (Tudor Pro Cycling Team) are also outside bets for a sprint win on stage 18.


We think that Tim Merlier will take the win for Quick-Step today.

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