Giro d'Italia live: Italian champion Filippo Zana wins stage 18 as Geraint Thomas withstands Primoz Roglič attack; João Almeida suffers and slips to third on GC; Canadian cyclist hits bear and survives; London cycling safety improving, according to stats
Welcome to another day of, hopefully, epic live action from the Giro d'Italia. This is Vern Pitt here bringing you all the the blow-by-blow action from the great fight for pink.
Geraint Thomas has the jersey to defend but his Ineos Grenadiers team is weakened by illness and injury so will this be the time for João Almeida (UAE Emirates) or Primož Roglič to strike?
I'll also have any other news from around the world of cycling today for you.
10.21 - The climb at the heart of today's race
10.26 - Two riders out of the Giro
10.41 - London cycling stats show city getting safer
12.44 - Ineos pressure Roglič
12.46 - Pinot take KOM points
13.00 - Forcella Cibiana climb profile
Cyclist hits bear, escapes with broken bones
A cyclist in Canada has had a lucky escape after he hit a black bear while descending a mountain road.
Having seen the bear rider Kevin Miller swerved but the bear went the same way and they collided.
He broke a series of bones but was rescued by a pair of passing riders.
You can see the full report from CBC news below.
The brutal climb at the heart of today's stage
It's tough to pick a most important climb on today's stage given there are new fewer than five categorised ascents, but Coi makes a pretty solid case for being the toughest.
somewhat surprisingly it's only a second category climb but comes right before the finish with only a smaller rest to recover from the final ascent.
The thing that makes it so intimidating is the 3km stretch that averages over 10% that finishes the climb, with ramps reaching up to an eye-watering 19%.
On paper this kind of climb should suit Primož Roglič most out of the main GC contenders but he showed weakness earlier in the week and was ominously towards the back for the finish of yesterday's sprint stage. That's a risk business as you can get caught in crash and not something many GC contender would willing accept, so maybe that indicates a level of fatigue or sickness within him.
We'll know in the next few hours if he still has his usual climbing form.
Two riders leave the race
It's been announced that Niccolò Bonifazio (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) and
Luca Covili (Green Project-Bardiani) will not take to the start this morning.
The Giro has been blighted by illness and injury this year, in part due to the terrible weather conditions of the first two weeks.
The two withdrawls leave the peloton with just 126 riders from a startlist of 176.
Happy Birthday Geraint Thomas!
It is Geraint Thomas's birthday today and he turns 37. He is the first rider to wear the pink jersey on his birthday since Richard Carapaz in 2019.
The Ecuadorian went on to win that giro, so perhaps it is a good sign for the Welshman.
Cycling in London getting safe, figures reveal
Cycling in London appears to be getting safe according to new figures released by Transport for London (TfL).
The numbers show that the number of cyclists killed in the capital fell to 7 in 2022 from 10 in 2021. The rate is now 58% below the 2005-2009 average that Transport for London uses as a benchmark for performance.
While the number of cyclists seriously injured on London's road increased by 48% against that historic baseline the number of journeys conducted by bike is estimated to have risen by 88%. So the incidence of serious injury has decreased as a proportion of trips by bike.
However, TfL added: "Clearly there is a need to continue to roll out safe cycle infrastructure, lower speeds and initiatives such as the Direct Vision Standard [a equipment specification for HGVs that is designed to make it easier to see cyclists]."
Most Giro drop-outs since 2010
I mentioned earlier this has been a particularly attractional Giro d'Italia with 50 riders having so far left the race.
That puts it just behind 2010 when 59 riders left the Giro. Plus, it seems quite likely we could top that in the coming days as the sprinters have limited incentive to remain in the race after yesterday's stage and some, if they're not well, may struggle to make the time cut on the coming brutal mountain stages.
North Coast 500 record attempt abandoned
In case you missed it yesterday, wind has forced ultra-cyclist Matt Page to abandon his attempt to break Mark Beaumont's record for the North Coast 500 route in Scotland.
He was trying to better Beaumont's time of 28 hours 35 minutes set last September but "savage winds" meant he had to call a stop to the attempt 21 hours in.
We're hoping to catch up with Matt for more detail in the coming days.
Chance of rain?
There is a a roughly 20% chance of rain at the finish today - that'll make a change - but it's coming late in the day so there is a more than decent chance that the riders will miss it.
And they're off!
The riders roll out of the neutralised start in the grand piazza in Oderzo.
Blue jersey fight
As the roll out of the town we see blue KOM jersey holder Ben Healy at the front, he'll be a man to watch today. If he can crest the top of the day's first climb, the Passo della Crosetta first then he'll take a commanding lead in that contest.
He already has a margin of 20 points and its 40 for the first over the top with only 18 points on offer for the rider in second place.
There is another first cat climb later in the stage with the Forcella Cibiana but by that point one suspects the GC teams may have taken control and the task may be more difficult.
156km to go: The flag drops and Thomas Champion (Cofidis) and Michael Matthews (Jayso-AlUla) are the first to attack but get nowhere.
Gianni Moscon (Astana) now goes followed by Matthews and Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ) among others. It's quite a big group.
It's notable how small the peloton looks on the helicopter shots now. This group of around 15 riders is trying but the peloton's pace is still high and the gap they have is small.
156km to go: Perennial breakaway star of the Giro Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) has closed the gap to the front group now.
Almost before I have time to type it out an acceleration by stage winner Nico Denz (Bora-Hansgrohe) is shut down.
154km to go: A Jayco-AlULa rider is now trying to instigate a move but fails.
Then Gee and Matthew try to take over before Larry Warbasse (AG2R Citroen) puts in an acceleration. No-one is getting more than a few meters as the race rolls along at around 54kph.
Alessandro de Marchi (Jayco-AlUla) is the latest to go off the front. He's made a career of success from the break so maybe he's got a good sense of what will stick. Warbasse and Ben Healy are both there.
They're drilling it but no meaningful gap is opening.
Christian Scaroni (Astana) has a kick but Movistar reel him back in.
Louis Leon Sanchez (Astana) Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) are in a group of around 15 that have a gap, but some Bahrain Vidtorious riders trying to bridge across inspire Ineos Grenadiers to chase.
It's basically back together again now.
144km to go: Cycling Weekly columnist Charlie Quarterman is at the very back of the long line that is the peloton pedalling furiously as he tried not to lose contact. He was in the break all day yesterday so it probably paying for that effort.
@quartermanc #Giro #GirodItalia pic.twitter.com/bIdYzy0ywQMay 24, 2023
Geraint Thomas, who's birthday it is today as I mentioned earlier, was presented with a cake at the start.
🎂 Spoiler #Giro #GirodItalia pic.twitter.com/6FhFRtQ6RzMay 25, 2023
139km to go: Nothing is sticking and I wonder at which point the legs of the big teams will decide this isn't worth chasing.
It is about 28km to the start of the first climb from the start and we've done over 20km already.
138km to go: Perhaps conscious of that Ben Healy, the KOM jersey holder for EF Education-EasyPost, has now got a gap with Jake Stewart on his wheel. Astana are chasing though and bring them back.
135km to go: Healy, Sanchez and a few other finally have a respectable gap but Filippo Zana the Italian champion tries to come across and that sets of a reaction. He's brought back and Movistar's Fernando Gaviria comes to the front.
133km to go: The group of five out front contains Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Louis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Ben Healy (Ef Education-EasyPost), Davide Gaburo (Green Project-Bardiani) and Alexandre Delettre (Cofidis). It looks like this might actualyl stick as the road begins to rise a little.
Passo la Crosetta
We're onto the approach to the day's first climb a first category ascent of 11.6km. It's fairly gentle for the most part around 7% but has a max of 11%.
131km to go: As I typed my last update the break, such that it was, has been caught and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) has gone on the attack. Aurelian Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroen) has joined him but the don't really have a gap.
130km to go: The grupetto is beginning to form with Mark Cavendish (Astana) going out the back with, I think, Quarterman among others.
129km to go: Derek Gee, Haig and Zana try and clip off the front, we're on the climb proper now, but Jumbo Visma are setting a steady pace and they are struggling to put clean tarmac between them and the peloton.
They're joined by Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and some others as the gap grows.
129km to go: It's 8.9km to the top of the climb as this new group of eight riders is tentatively pulling clear.
128km to go: Jumbo-Visma still have good numbers in the peloton (it looks like no more than 50 riders at best now) but there are only two Ineos Grenadiers jersey's around Geraint Thomas, some may be further back in the group but se shall see. Perhaps the Dutch squad are smelling their British rival's weakness and trying to press something home by setting the tempo here.
128km to go: Just as I typed out the list of the front group Jumbo caught them, now it's just Marco Frigo and Derek Gee (Israel Premier-Tech) on the attack. Jumbo have lost a couple of their riders in the process.
This has been breathless stuff so far and I'm not riding up an Italian climb.
127km to go: I reckon there's 30-40 riders left in the peloton at this point. Pinot is bridging across to the Israel duo, while and Astana rider also appears to be thinking about it but is looking over his shoulder, which suggests less than full commitment.
Jumbo set pace again.
Zana, who has clearly scoffed an entire 24-pack of Wheetabix this morning, goes off the front again.
126km to go: I can see six Jumbo jerseys, including Primož Roglič, in the peloton but Thomas appears to have just two lieutenants. UAE Emirates who's leader João Almeida is second on GC may have one or two but it doesn't appear to be more than that.
125km to go: The front group is now five with Gee, Frigo, Pinot, Zana and Parte-Peintre.
Jumbo continue to control the peloton's pace, it seems some of the dropped riders are coming back.
124km to go: Vadim Pronskiy (Astan) is stuck in no-mans land between the break and the peloton, the gap between the two is 45 seconds. He might get some help as a Corratec-Selle-Italia rider decides he wants to join the front of the race and pops out of the peloton joined by Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic).
123km to go: Roglic is sitting quite far back in the peloton with Sepp Kuss, that seems odd given it's his team on the front drilling it.
122km to go: There is now a group of five chasing the break including Haig, Barguil, Stevie Williams (Israel Premier-Tech) Veljko Stojnic (Corratec-Selle Italia) and Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo Kometa).
121km to go: Ineos on the front appear to have upped the pace and there was gap at the back to Roglic and Jumbo, but they come back together. That may be a sign of weakness from the Slovenian but it may also be that they were going through the feed and it just split up a bit.
The gap to the front group has fallen to 50 seconds.
120km to go: They are pushing the pace now because the chase group of five l listed a moment ago have not been caught. not sure what the thinking on this is as Ineos only have 2 domestiques for the pink jersey.
Barguil is trying to stay out front but he's in pain.
120km to go: Thibaut Pinot takes the maximum points over the top of the climb and that helps him close the gap on Healy, who has been dropped, to just 10 points.
118km to go: There is a sizable group of dropped riders trying to get back onto the peloton on the descent. It includes both Jumbo and Ineos riders who would be welcome additions for their team were they to get back to their GC leaders.
114km to go: Salvatore Puccio and Ben Swift have made it back to the peloton to help their Ineos Grenadiers leader Geraint Thomas, as has, improbably, sprinter Pascal Ackermann for UAE Emirates and his GC challenger Almeida.
The gap to the front group is 1-17 now which is close enough that some are tempted to bridge it on the 30km or so of flat road that they're on now.
112km to go: I may be speaking too soon but I sense the race may settle down for a bit now on this flat section before the second cat one climb of the day.
There is a small fourth cat climb to crest yet but then it is more or less flat until the race reaches Forcella Cibiana. This first cat climb is a different beast to the one the riders just climbed with a steeper section of nearly 10% for about 6km.
It'll start with around 35km to race.
101km to go: Looks like the race will end up coming back together, at least to some extent, as it comes off the climb.
95km to go: The breakaway tapping out a steady rhythm on the cat-four Pieve d'Alpago now. The gap remains steady at 1.51.
92km to go: We've become very familiar with some of these names in the break over the past couple of weeks. Paret-Peintre took a win back on stage four; Frigo has taken a pair of top fives and it feels like Gee has been in almost every break this race, managing three second places. He must be wondering what he has to do to win...
92km to go: The break goes over the top of the Pieve d'Alpago, with Thibaut Pinot taking three points to bring him within seven points of mountains classification leader Ben Healy. Derek Gee is second, Aurélien Paret-Peintre third.
79km to go: We're on the flat now, with around 35 kilometres before the road starts rising again, and even more before they hit any significant climbs. This is the calm before the storm.
74km to go: The gap to the break has gone out to three minutes and rising now, and still climbing. The peloton has clearly settled into a steady pace, perhaps mindful of the climbing to come.
69km to go: Thibaut Pinot, the best placed of the breakaway riders on GC at 6.48 behind Geraint Thomas, has managed to climb from 13th to a virtual fourth place on GC. The riders he has so far leapfrogged include Eddie Dunbar, whose Jayco-AlUla team-mate Filippo Zana is in the break with Pinot. There could be some interesting team decisions coming up. Will any of the other GC teams step in to help Ineos bring Pinot back?
57km to go: It has been fairly chilled out since the descent off the day's first climb. The break's advantage has grown to 4-33 now and the race is just starting to go uphill as it apporaches the bottom of the Forcella Cibiana, still around 20 km away.
52km to go: Ben Swift is continuing to set the pace in the peloton. The Brit has been riding a very solid race so far performing in the mountains even better than you might expect from the all-rounder. There's a hell of a lot of life left in the 35 year-old yet.
50km to go: The break's advantage ticks over the five minute mark for the first time. It's possible they'll get to contest the stage win though the GC teams have numbers in the peloton so if they start to go hard on the next two climbs that gap could well disappear very quickly.
49km to go: I mentioned numbers just now at it seems like Ineos and UAE Emirates have four riders each around their leaders, but from what I can tell Jumbo-Visma seem to have the full seven riders around Primož Roglič.
Take that with a pinch of salt as it's not terribly easy to see from the TV.
45km to go: Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is in the break and is only 6-48 off the pink jersey on the GC and yet the GC team seem content to let him have a gap of 5-13. If the race were to stop now he'd haul himself into fourth place.
Almost certainly that gap will shrink but you might expect Bahrain Victorious, who have Damiano Caruso in fourth place or Jayco-AlUla, who have Eddie Dunbar in fifth, to perhaps take an interest in helping with the chase. Clearly they feel no such compulsion.
45km to go: Derek Gee, who is second in the points competition, is allowed to collect the full 12 points at the intermediate sprint, which Giro organiser RCS have placed at the top of a small climb.
The Canadian is still over 80 points off the lead of Jonathan Milan who can sleep easy in the knowledge no real threat exists.
While everything is fairly quiet in the race here's a few pics from today. Italy never fails to impress with the vistas it gives us, especially in the mountains.
34km to go: UAE Emirates and Bora-Hansgrohe come to the front of the peloton to set pace, maybe they are concerned this gap has gotten too big and threatens their GC placing.
33km to go: No-one really has full control of the peloton though UAE Emirates seem to be keen to stamp their authoirty. After a while on wide roads they have become tighter now, that may well be part of why there is a fight for position.
Technical issues: Sorry if the gallery I posted around eight minutes ago wasn't working on your device. I've changed it now so it should show the pictures I was trying to show you.
30km to go: The peloton is thinning out again on this climb and I suspect that'll be for good this time as from here to the finish its either up or down.
30km to go: Roglič is towards the back of the peloton again. He has his team-mates around him but it's not a great sign this early into the endgame, especially given Ineos have already tried to exploit that positioning once already today.
29km to go: Pinot sets the pace in the break, his jersey wide open. The gap they have is 6-11 now. Pronskiy, the Astana rider, is getting distanced and the climb begins to bit a bit. The steepest sections at the top are still to come.
28km to go: Laurens de Plus comes to the front of the peloton for Ineos Grenadiers and ups the pace. Do they sense weakness from Roglič? The British team doesn't have a whole lot of cards to play so they must be semi-confident to paly one now. The Slovenian is moving up the group, which would seem to indicate he's doing ok.
27km to go: Pronskiy has been detached from the break now.
27km to go: More riders are dropping out the back of the maglia rosa group now as it lines out under Ineos's pressure.
27km to go: Pinot has a bike change, it's slick but doubtless he'd have preferred not to have to do that.
27km to go: Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) and Magnus Cort (Ef Education-EasyPost) become the latest two to drop out the back of the pink jersey group. Roglic is firmly placed behind the group of UAE Emirates riders in the group.
26km to go: Sam Oomen (Jumbo-Visma) and Michel Hessman (Jumbo-Visma) are out the back of the peloton, some of the other Jumbo riders are towards the back too.
26km to go: Pinot takes the maximum 18 points at the top of the climb, which will put him back into the blue jersey, all things being equal by the end of the day.
The break now has a gap of 4-51.
Davide Formolo (UAE Emirates) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) have both been dropped from the maglia rosa group.
23km to go: Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) is struggling at the back of the maglia rosa group. He sits 11th on GC currently.
As it stands the top three riders on GC all have two domestiques with them.
22km to go: I stand corrected there is an extra Jumbo rider at the back of the group. Lennard Kamna (Bora Hansgrohe), who is sixth on GC, is on his own in this group.
Ineos are now sharing the work at the front of the group.
19km to go: Derek Gee is dropped from the break on the descent, so they're clearly pushing on a bit. Their gap is now 4-25.
17km to go: Carthy has made it back onto the back of the GC group.
14km to go: Gee has made it back into the break but his team-mate is much further back but he's in sight so maybe he'll make it.
SD Worx take another win
While we've been following the action in Italy women's powerhouse team SD Worx has won its 14th race in a row.
Barbara Guarischi has won the third stage of the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour after beating her own team-mate Lorena Wiebes in the sprint.
12km to go: Frigo makes it back into the break as Ineos come back to the front to set pace in the GC group again.
Towards the top of the this climb is where the 20% gradients lie.
Just FYI I'm going to refer to this whole segment to the finish as the final climb, it is classified as two but its really more like one with a 3km descent in the middle.
The roads to the first peak are tight and so being in position at that point will be crucial.
10km to go: There's around 20 riders in the GC group now. Almeida and Roglic both have three domestiques with them but Thomas has only two, and they've been working for quite a while now.
8km to go: Barguil is out the back of the break. Gee is struggling there now.
In the GC group Formolo is struggling.
8km to go: It's just Zana and Pinot out front as Gee loses contact.
8km to go: You can see on the TV pictures that this climb is really rather steep, which means its even worse. Pinot and Zana seem relatively comfortable with 2.5km to go to the top of this peak.
7km to go: The GC group is still on the wider roads and Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma) is getting shuffled back in the group.
7km to go: Barguil has made it back up to GEE but there is now a sizable gap to the pair out front.
In the GC group Sepp Kuss comes to the front with Roglič and turns the screw. Thomas follows.
Carthy has gone out the back. Almeida is also struggling and can't keep contact with the front of this group which is now Kuss, Roglič, Thomas and Dunbar.
7km to go: Jay Vine battles to bring Almeida back. If there's one thing we know about the Portuguese its that he never gives up he'll diesel his way to try and get back on all the way to the top.
The gap is not huge yet but it does seem to be slowly opening up.
6km to go: Dunbar doesn't look comfortable but he's hanging in there just fine. Vine is doing his best to limit the gap.
Thomas and co are 3.37 behind Pinot and Zana, it looks likely they'll contest the stage.
Almeida is around 16 seconds off the pink jersey quad.
6km to go: With Kuss setting pace there's really nothing for Thomas and Dunbar to do other than sit in and hold the wheel. Will we see an attack from Roglič?
5.5km to go: The lead of Pinot and Zana is around 48 seconds to the next group.
But Thomas is equal to it and sits on his wheel. Kuss and Dunbar are a little further back but Kuss is coming back to the pair now.
5km to go: Kuss is back and setting the pace for Roglič. Almeida is still only about 16 seconds back, he might be able to get back on on the descent. It's the same for Dunbar who is between the two groups.
4km to go: Vine and Almeida are catching Dunbar now.
Neither Thomas nor Roglič look in too much trouble with the pace Kuss is setting.
2.7km to go: The GC guys crest the first peak of the final climb. There's a short descent before it kicks up again.
Pinot and Zana already on the lower slopes of that final ascent.
2km to go: Jay Vine makes a mistake on a corner and both Almeida and Dunbar get out of sort in turn. no-one falls off though but they'll have lost some time on Roglič and thomas.
1.5km to go: Pinot attacks Zana!
But the Italian champ matches him.
Further back Almeida is closing in on the maglia rosa trio.
1km to go: Kuss drops off and its just Thomas and Roglič. The Slovenian sets the pace. It's in both their interests to put time into Almeida.
1km to go: Thomas comes to the front now. But Vine is closing the gap and has Almeida and Dunbar with him.
900m to go: Pinot still has Zana on his wheel.
Almeida and Dunbar must chase the pink jersey on their own as Vine drops off they never quite made it back.
And Dunbar is struggling, Almeida drops him.
500m to go: Pinot leads round the final few bends.
They're going to sprint it out.
Pinot kicks but Zana powers back, he's too strong on home roads and overhauls the Frenchman. It's close for Pinot but no joy.
Roglič leads it in with Thomas on his wheel. Almeida is a fair bit further back now.
Roglič and Thomas put around 20 seconds into Almeida and that's enough to lift the Slovenian into second place on GC.