As it happened: Victory for Zana and blow for Almeida on Giro d'Italia stage 18
- Giro d'Italia: Filippo Zana beats Thibaut Pinot to conquer Zoldo Alto on stage 18
- Giro d'Italia stage 18 GC standings: Thomas keeps pink as Almeida sheds time
Hello there and welcome along to our live coverage of stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia!
Back into the mountains we go and, while Friday's monster stage and Saturday's mountain time trial might be the pivotal days, today's parcours should give us some more action in the battle for the pink jersey that only really got going a couple of days ago.
Here's what's in store. No huge high-mountain passes like tomorrow but a fair old chunk of elevation gain nonetheless. An early climb should make for a frantic start, while the pair of steep climbs near the end should inspire some action ahead of the final haul to the line.
The riders are gathering on the start line and will soon be rolling out.
Glorious start location today in Oderzo.
👋👋 👋#Giro #GirodItalia pic.twitter.com/T5NEGc7zDyMay 25, 2023
Two non-starters today. Niccolo Bonifazio (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), who was fourth yesterday, has bronchitis, while Luca Covili (Green Project-Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) is out with gastoenteritis.
The riders are on the move and we have a 10-minute neutral zone to negotiate before the flag drops and the race gets underway. We should see plenty of interest in the breakaway today.
Before we get going, your recommended reading is Barry Ryan's scene-setting preview as we head into the crucial phase of the 2023 Giro.
Three riders, three days, 29 seconds – Thomas, Almeida and Roglic reach Giro d’Italia endgame
Ice packs are being stuffed down jerseys in this neutral zone. Oderzo has gone all out on the pink and it's resplendent in this shimmering sunshine. The rain and cold of the opening weeks may feel like a distant memory at this point (or maybe not), but we will be heading back up above the snow line tomorrow.
It's Geraint Thomas' birthday today. He's 37. Here he is with a cake on the start podium a few minutes ago.
The riders reach kilometre-zero and stage 18 is underway.
The first attack comes from Thomas Champion (Cofidis) who leads the competition for most breakaway kilometres so far. It comes to nothing but not it stretches out as Gianni Moscon (Astana) gives it a nudge.
A big group goes but reactions still coming from behind.
Ineos are looking to fire Ben Swift up the road, as they did a couple of days ago.
Derek Gee - of course - is just ahead of Swift and he effectively drags the lined-out peloton back to that initial group of 15. All together again.
Ben Healy (EF) is up towards the front in his blue jersey as leader of the mountains classification.
Gee is keeping a watchful eye around the front. Accelerations are coming thick and fast but no real gaps appearing.
Jayco-AlUla have been active and now Alessandro De Marchi goes off. Larry Warbasse (AG2R) is also interested, as are Israel's Gee and Frigo.
Filippo Zana now goes for Jayco.
10km gone in the blink of an eye, and no breakaway yet. We have just under 20km more until we hit the first climb of the day, and it's a pretty big one.
Splits now as the next wave of attacks comes.
There are two groups off the front but it's all coming back together as Jumbo-Visma's Koen Bouwman drags it back. There must be a danger man in there.
Healy gives it a whack as that move comes to nothing. He's in blue and these next two stages are huge for the mountains classification, starting with 40 points for our early cat-1 climb today, which is starting in just over 10km.
Four go clear now and Healy is on the front trying to shut it down, perhaps using up more precious energy after just attacking himself.
He gets assistance now from Zana, who starts to shut it down.
Santiago Buitrago is active for Bahrain Victorious. Perhaps that's who Jumbo are concerned about. He's 14th overall and has impressed in service of Damiano Caruso.
Healy gives it another bash. Warbasse is next in line but nothing going.
20km ridden and it's all together again.
Healy goes again and is joined by Jake Stewart (FDJ).
Luis Leon Sanchez responds and that duo is brought back. All together.
Or is it? A roundabout creates another natural split and Healy is away again with Sanchez and a couple more as Stewart appears to have a mechanical problem.
Zana tries to ping across but now sits up.
Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) is in this nascent break, along with Davide Gabburo (Bardiani), and Alexandre Delettre (Cofidis). The other two are Healy and Sanchez.
Haig is 18th overall at 10:58. He lost time in the second week due to the effects of a crash.
The move is going but Eolo-Kometa have missed it and they're now on the front of the bunch.
Arkea also want in, and they help close the gap.
The road is heading uphill now onto the lower slopes of the Passo della Crosetta.
The gap is closed and it's all together for a moment before Warren Barguil (Arkea) goes out front.
Buitrago jumps across to it. Sprinters are getting spat out the back already.
Zana is determined to get in this break and he comes across, with a couple of riders in tow.
Here's what we're dealing with now.
Aurelien Paret-Peintre (AG2R) is another top 20 GC rider who looks to get involved.
Add to that list: Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
Ineos and Jumbo have to be really attentive here. They are, and the effect is that the bunch is exploding. Lots of riders dropped.
A ver very mini peloton here, even on the lower slopes of this climb.
Another push out the front and Zana is there again along with Gee and Frigo, plus Paret-Peintre.
Pinot is up there again, as is Haig.
We also have Vadim Pronskiy for Astana, and a Bardiani rider has jumped across.
Jumbo-Visma control the peloton - or what's left of it. Ineos have pink with Thomas but it's Roglic's men who have taken command of the bunch.
Jumbo are pulling in both groups as Edoardo Affini sits on the nose of a second main bunch.
It's Tonelli for Bardiani and you should now be able to see the list of riders in this breakaway just above.
Healy is now getting dropped. He used a load of energy on the 25km before this climb.
Andreas Leknessund (DSM) attacks! He wore the pink jersey earlier in the race, he's still 8th overall, and he's trying to bridge to the break.
Buitrago goes with him!
Jumbo are struggling to contain this and more moves go, with Ineos looking to ping. a rider up now.
It's all getting a bit spicy and it's all coming back together, although the peloton is being completely shredded as a result.
As it comes together, Gee and Frigo go again, and they're joined by Pronskiy.
Pinot goes again as Pronskiy is distanced from this latest move.
Only 25 riders left in the bunch, and now Zana kicks it off again with Paret-Peintre.
Pinot is up with the Israel duo of Gee and Frigo, once again lighting up this race. Behind, we have Zana and Paret-Peintre now chasing with Pronskiy. Behind them is the mini bunch, which is settling once more with Jumbo-Visma on the front.
Pronskiy is distanced again and it doesn't look like he'll be in today's break. Paret-Peintre shows good legs to drop Zana on his way to the front, although the Italian champion has attacked a lot today, and is still clawing his way over himself.
As it starts to calm, a group of riders is coming back towards the main bunch, containing a couple of reinforcements for Ineos and Jumbo.
It's Sam Oomen and Thomas Gloag on the front for Jumbo, ahead of Thymen Arensman and Laurens De Plus for Ineos.
Jumbo actually have four more riders further down - Roglic, Kuss, Dennis, and Hessman. In the group coming back they have Bouwman.
Ineos look to be gaining Puccio from this group coming back but they are outnumbered, although that's to be expected since Geoghegan Hart, Ganna, and Sivakov are not in the race at all anymore.
More attacks now as the peloton increases in size. Haig follows some moves.
The lead group have 42 seconds in hand as they hit the final 3km of La Crosetta.
Haig joins Barguil, Fortunato, and Stojnic in this counter-attack
UAE have good numbers with Vine, McNulty, Formolo, Ulissi alongside Almeida.
Pascal Ackermann, remarkably, is still here for UAE as well.
The leaders are more than a minute up now.
A new attack from Israel and Stevie Williams pings from the bunch. The team already have two up the road.
William blitzes across the gap to the counter with Haig, Barguil, Fortunato, and Stojnic.
Pronskiy is still in the gap between them and the leaders - Pinot, Gee, Frigo, Paret-Peintre, Zana, Gabburo.
So far today: not boring.
Change in the bunch as Ineos take it up now. Jumbo disappear.
Splits in the bunch!
The bunch briefly split there with a gap back to Jumbo. The pace has been raised. as the group has thinned markedly once again!
Ineos are definitely upping the pace and they catch the Haig/Barguil counter-attack!
Do Ineos smell blood? De Plus is on the front, and they still have Arensman with Thomas. All three are in the top 10 overall.
Barguil kicks again and gets over to Pronskiy.
120km to go
Top of the Crosetta and Pinot gets there first, uncontested, to collect the maximum 40 KOM points.
Pronskiy and Barguil are next over, just ahead of the reduced bunch, 30 seconds down on the leaders.
Some gentle descending before a steeper downhill that will lead into our next climb, a short cat-4 number.
Ineos have dropped a couple of Jumbo riders, including Bouwman, but they've also dropped Puccio, who they might want to ride in the valley that leads to the final mountains.
Here's a shot of our breakaway.
The bunch does swell as more riders like Puccio come back.
Meanwhile out five-man break has taken advantage of that slowing to move out to 1:20. Barguil and Pronskiy are still in no-man's land.
Ben Swift also comes back for Ineos, so they'll have two workhorses - Swift and Puccio - for the valley, and then two elite climbers - De Plus and Arensman - to go with Thomas on the final climbs.
Jumbo-Visma also have numbers but there have been question marks already. They were on the front earlier, perhaps needlessly so, and Roglic hasn't been riding close to the front all day, even if most of his teammates were there. He's been towards middle and back, and it even caught him out just before as Ineos upped the pace and he was very briefly distanced.
Ineos are marshalling the peloton now with four riders in front of Thomas.
Roglic is once again at the back, with Kuss, although they're trying to move up now.
Barguil and Pronskiy join the break. They worked well together and plugged away at that. Pronskiy has been in no-man's land for ages but is in what's now a seven-man breakaway.
Thomas in the spotlight as words are exchanged between Ineos and Jumbo.
Here was De Plus giving it some on the upper slopes of La Crosetta.
The gap between break and bunch stands at 1:45 as we dip downhill towards the foot of our next little climb.
100km to go
Just 100 to go on what has been a breathless start to today's stage. It should now settle into something of a holding pattern as we go over this next climb and into the valley but, given the action so far, we can expect some fireworks on the bigger final climbs.
The breakaway hit the second climb of the day, the cat-4 Pieve d'Alpago, which measures 3.3km at 5.5%.
Another group stitched onto the back of the bunch at the end of that decent, so we have a sizeable peloton once again, 1:45 behind our seven-man break.
Ineos lead the peloton, ahead of UAE, and then Jumbo-Visma.
All three teams have every one of their riders in here - Ineos with five, UAE with seven, and Jumbo with eight.
92.5km to go
The breakaway reach the top of the Pieve d'Alpago climb and it's Pinot who once again collects maximum mountains points with a minimum of fuss. He wore the blue jersey in two spells earlier in the race and is closing in on Healy's lead.
New KOM standings
1. Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost)- 164 points
2. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) - 156
3. Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) - 144
4. Einer Rubio (Movistar) - 118
5. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) - 55
A short downhill now and then a long 50km slog up through the valley en route to the final climbs.
The breakaway take their lead to two minutes and we should now be entering a much quieter mid-section of this stage. These seven escapees should have no big problems working together here, while Ineos will simply control the peloton with a steady tempo through Swift and Puccio.
The gap goes out above 2:30.
3:30 now as the peloton calls for a spot of lunch.
The gap reaches 4:20 now.
The best-placed rider in the break is Pinot, who's 13th at 6:48.
Ineos have taken charge and looked strong this stage, even placing Roglic and Jumbo-Visma under serious pressure earlier. Here's a piece on the mood in their camp ahead of this trio of mountain stages.
Keep calm and win the Giro d'Italia - Ineos Grenadiers back Geraint Thomas for title
The race leader on an earlier descent.
And here's Roglic, who has some bandaging on his left leg. He has crashed a few times at this Giro, the worst seemingly the gash suffered to his left thigh on stage 5. Is he physically struggling? There was certainly something wrong two days ago, and there have been worrying signs already today.
The gap nudges up to 4:45 as we chug up through the valley.
We're coming to the end of the first section of valley, with a short uncategorised coming up that leads to an intermediate sprint and a final 10km plateau ahead of our final climbs.
Beautiful scenery as we head towards the Dolomites.
50km to go
Into the final 50 and the seven-man breakaway move out to five minutes.
The peloton hits this uncategorised climb and it's Swift on the front with full numbers for all the big teams.
Pinot had trouble in the valley last week but this group has been cooperating well together and they've moved to 5:15 out in front.
The break skip up the stiff final kick up into Pieve di Cadore, where we'll have our intermediate sprint.
Gee is second in the points classification and will want to add to his tally here.
No contest as Gee eases clear to take the full 12 points.
Updated points classification
1. Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) - 215 points
2. Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) - 133
3. Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) - 95
4. Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) - 93
5. Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) - 79
The peloton lose some time on that steep kicker and they pass through the intermediate sprint 5:52 in arrears.
A reminder of our stage profile. We're on the approach now to the third-last climb, and we're only a few kilometres away.
Here's a closer look at the next climb, the cat-1 Forcella Cibiana.
The subsequent climb, Coi, is 'only' cat-2 but it has some super steep stuff near the top, while the final haul to the line is short but still around 7% on hairpins.
The pace now picks up in the bunch. Bora and UAE come forward.
Pinot is a minute off the overall lead on the road, so virtually fourth place. I'm sure if there's any real panic about Pinot or if we're just gearing up for this big climb, but there's been a definite surge in pace.
Forcella Cibiana begins!
The peloton hit the climb 5:30 behind the break and Ineos have been mobbed at the front although the urgency has eased a little.
Riders start to get spat out the back of the bunch and Ackermann is finally dropped.
Puccio and Swift are both done for Ineos. Over to Arensman and De Plus.
It's steady in the bunch, with no one really looking to take it up. The gap to the break goes back out to 5:45.
Jumbo-Visma are once again down towards the back of the bunch.
Is this one big bluff from Roglic? No one is looking to test that for the time being.
The gap reaches six minutes and this is looking like a victory for the breakaway.
DSM have two riders in the middle of a bunch that's spread across the road - an indication of low urgency. Jayco also have a couple and UAE have riders dotted about. Thomas has teammates to his side but Ineos aren't controlling this anymore.
6:10 now as Pinot nudges the break on. A reminder that he started the day 13th overall at 6:48.
Pronskiy is struggling with the pace at the back of the group.
Pinot unzips the jersey and skips out of the saddle. He's in the mood again today.
Change in the bunch
Ineos take it up. De Plus hits the front and lifts it.
Significant injection of pace from De Plus after a slow start to that climb.
Barguil and Zana also have jerseys open flapping in the wind, the true mark of a top climber. Pronskiy's is zipped up, and he's dropped.
De Plus' pace reduces the gap to 5:50 already. What a Giro the Belgian is having. He's had such a rough few years but he's finally back to his true self.
The bunch is steadily thinning under this new pressure.
Mechanical for Pinot - bike change
He makes sure to take off his computer to put onto his replacement bike. So cycling's great anti-robot does like his data.
De Plus leads the way ahead of Thomas and Arensman. Behind are Vine, McNutly, and Formolo with Almeida. then it's Dennis and Kuss with Roglic, who also has three teammates further down this bunch.
It's a steady flow of riders out the back door of this bunch.
Sam Oomen is now dropped for Jumbo. They've already lost Affini and they have Hessman and Gloag towards the back of the group.
Hessman dropped as I wrote that.
The six remaining breakaway riders come into the final 500m of this cat-1 climb. Their lead has been cut down to 5:10.
26km to go
Top of Forcella Cibiana
Pinot leads the breakaway to the summit to collect a further 40 points in the mountains classification. That's him back in the blue jersey.
Formolo is dropped for UAE.
Carthy struggling and dangling off the back already. He's not having a great Giro.
Armirail is also fighting to hang onto the back of this bunch on the upper reaches of the climb.
The vastly reduced bunch reaches the top of the Forcella Cibiana with the gap down to 4:25.
Here are the riders in the GC group, more or less in this order...
De Plus, Thomas, Arensman, Almeida, McNulty, Vine, Roglic, Dennis, Kuss, Dunbar Leknessund, Caruso, Rubio, Van Wilder, Kamna, Bouwman, Carthy, Armirail.
More could get back in on this descent, which is a fast one. The break has split here with Frigo and Gee distanced.
Gee is back up front. Frigo still off the back of the break.
15km to go
The breakaway come to the end of the descent. A short bit of flat and Frigo is a fair way down and might be done for here.
The second intermediate sprint comes now and there are no points but bonus seconds are available.
Pinot takes them across the line and adds three seconds. He started the day 6:48 down and this group are currently 4:36 ahead.
A short draggy approach to our penultimate climb and Frigo is now fighting to close the gap.
Frigo makes it back to the break. Six men in the lead, 4:45 up on the bunch.
Here's what's coming up. That's all that's left of the stage.
Roglic has a comfort break on the fly and is moved back up by his teammates.
Some dropped riders have got back in on that descent - Formolo for UAE, Bouwman for Jumbo, Haig for Bahrain, and Bettiol for EF.
The bunch are on the gentle lower slopes of the Coi climb and it's slightly steadier here from Ineos.
It's Arensman working for Ineos here, De Plus tucked in behind.
10km to go and the break are still together as the road starts to ramp up here.
Here's the map to the finish.
Thomas pours a bottle of water over his head. Sure is a hot one.
Bettiol and Haig dropped again.
Pinot accelerates and he's putting riders in trouble here!
Frigo and Paret-Peintre lose contact.
Zana was right in the wheel and now accelerates himself. Gee and Barguil are struggling a little.
They hit the double-digit gradients. This is the key part of the stage for break and GC group.
The breakaway still have 4:20 in hand so one of these riders will win the stage. It doesn't look like Barguil, who's dropped now.
Gee is falling away as Pinot cracks on through this horribly steep section.
Gee is fighting. What a Giro he's having. But he's losing ground now.
Pinot is crunching this. But Zana looks really good in his wheel.
Arensman continues to lead the GC group. 4:05 the latest gap with 8km to go.
Pinot dances out of the saddle. So does Zana. The two look equally matched. Pinot undid himself by doing far too much a few days ago. Is Zana going to try and profit from that again?
No. The Italian champion moves through and does a stint on the front.
Rohan Dennis is dropping from the GC group. They haven't reached the steep section yet.
Barguil has ground his way back to Gee but Pinot and Zana are riding away.
Roglic moves forward. Kuss hits the front and Roglic takes the wheel. Here we go.
Carthy dropped but are we about to see an attack from Roglic on the steep stuff?
Wow. Kuss is blowing this group up. Thomas is alive to it. Dunbar as well. But the stage 16 winner is in major trouble!!
Arensman works his way across to this Kuss move. Great from him after the work he's done already.
Vine is trying to pace Almeida back. Leknessund, Caruso, and Rubio are with them, just ahead of Kamna.
Arensman is suffering now and can't hold the wheel. He drops from that lead GC group.
So it's Kuss, Roglic, Thomas, Dunbar - four riders at the head of affairs from a GC perspective. Vine and Almeida are limiting the damage to around 10 seconds here.
Caruso and Rubio are dropped from the Almeida chase group, which features Vine, Almeida, Leknessund, Arensman (although the latter is being distanced).
Pinot and Zana still out front with 6.3km to go. They're 3:30 up on this mini pink jersey group now.
Vine is holding this gap at just over 10 seconds for Almeida.
Paret-Peintre has come back to Barguil but they're now 47 seconds behind the two leaders.
Thomas follows. Dunbar dropped.
We wondered whether Roglic was on a bad day. Doesn't look like it.
Kuss sits on Dunbar then attacks him to come back to Roglic and Thomas.
5.5km to go
Pinot and Zana come to the top of the Coi climb and Pinot adds to his KOM points tally. But this is all about the stage win. They have enough time. Short descent and short final climb to settle it.
Barguil, Gee and a resurgent Paret-Peintre follow over the top at 55 seconds.
Kuss takes it up once more and now they're damaging Almeida, who's 20 seconds down.
But now Almeida rallies thanks to this great turn from Vine. They're coming across to Dunbar.
Leknessund is fading. Arensman skips around him.
Vine and Almeida catch Dunbar. They're 15 seconds behind Roglic, Kuss, and Thomas.
Top of the climb and Kuss leads Roglic and Thomas over, now just 12 seconds up on the Almeida trio. They could close this on the descent.
Arensman is next over the top, alone.
Leknessund, Caruso, and Kamna are all losing time today.
Pinot and Zana tick off the descent and now it's onto the final climb!
Vine nearly crashes! He keeps it up but he took too much speed into a left-hander. Almeida had to adjust, and Dunbar nearly went off the road too, but they're all upright, although that will cost them some seconds.
Pinot takes it up at the head of the race. He lifts the pace. 1600m to go.
Almeida has had to leave vine behind and he's now looking to TT across to the lead GC trio on this flat before the climb.
Vine comes back, Dunbar there too, and they're just off the back as Kuss peels off, done.
Thomas comes through to lift the pace. Roglic follows.
Vine is dragging this back! Despite a mishap, he's done a great job for Almeida to rescue this sutiation.
Up front, Pinot continues to lead Zana. Steadier tempo at the moment.
Vine can't quite close the gap and pulls off before the job is done! Thomas and Roglic accelerate to punish Almeida.
Roglic hits the front and turns the screw. Almeida rides away from Dunbar.
Pinot and Zana come into the final 500 metres. Pinot is leading all the way. Zana is making him lead out. And they've decided this is going to come down to one final kick to the line.
Pinot looks over his shoulder. And again. 250 metres to go and this is it.
Pinot sprints. Zana in the wheel and now coming round...
And Zana takes it!!!
What a win for the Italian champion, his first in a Grand Tour, his home Grand Tour. Heartbreak again from Pinot.
Barguil is third, another remarkable display from Gee in fourth.
And here come Roglic and Thomas!
Roglic takes them to the line, Thomas in the wheel. What's the damage for Almeida?
It's a fair old gap in the end - around 20 seconds.
Dunbar is next, Kuss in the wheel. They're a further 14 seconds down.
Caruso is next, almost 40 seconds down. Shortly followed by Kamna, then Van Wilder, and Leknessund.
In the GC, Thomas retains the pink jersey and extends his lead, which is now at 29 seconds. That's because Almeida drops below Roglic into third place.
Dunbar also moves ahead of Caruso into fourth but this is really now a three-horse race.
Full GC standings on the way.
Official results and timings are slow, again, to come in today from the race organisers.
And here's the updated GC
Let's hear from the race leader, Geraint Thomas
"Decent day. To gain time on Almeida and not get dropped by Primoz is a good day - A solid day, though, for sure. I felt pretty good, pretty in control. Primoz likes to go hard, easy, hard. I gave him a few turns and wasn't sure how he was feeling but then in the last 2km he really squeezed on again. He was really strong but I'm happy with how I was.
"It's nice [to gain time on Almeida] but Primoz had a bad day the other day, Almeida today. I've just got to keep being consistent. Just take it day by day, climb by climb."
Here's our stage page, for all your report, results, and photo needs.
Giro d'Italia: Filippo Zana beats Thibaut Pinot to conquer Zoldo Alto on stage 18
Almeida lost 21 seconds today to Thomas and Roglic, a disappointment after he beat them both at Monte Bondone two days ago.
It could have been much worse, were it not for Jay Vine, although it arguably could have been better as Vine didn't quite close the gap in time for the final climb, leaving Almeida an agonising few metres off regaining contact, before slipping again in the final 2km.
Roglic steadied the ship today. There were question marks as he was distanced briefly twice on the opening climb, and his teammates often rode far down the group, but he silenced the doubts with a series of accelerations on the final climbs.
Still, he wasn't good enough to drop Thomas, who passed the test in fine fashion, confirming that he's pretty much in the form of his life, on his 37th birthday. A mouthwatering battle awaits tomorrow, before this is settled in the most savage of mountain time trials.
Zana on the podium
Déjà-vu: blue jersey for Pinot but it won't fully console the disappointment of another second place.
And here's Thomas on the podium, again in pink.
That's all from us for today. Keep an eye on Cyclingnews for all the news and reaction from the race. Also, rest up for tomorrow, because you're not going to want to miss this. We'll have it all covered live once again. Until then, ciao.