But the day belongs to this chap, Matteo Trentin, who now has a Giro win to go alongside his two scalps on the Tour de France. That's a fourth win for Etixx in this Giro too after Kittel's brace and Brambilla's earlier victory in Arezzo.
Muggiò - Pinerolo
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Valverde leads the favourites over the line some 13:34 down on the stage winner, Matteo Trentin. So, no changes on GC as Kruijswijk retains his three-minute lead over Esteban Chaves in the fight for pink.
Steven Kruijswijk right on the front on this cobbled climb before the finish, the Dutchman knowing that it's the safest place to be... Valverde then picks it up, but can't make any headway as he crosses the summit ahead of the maglia rosa and Nibali. Now the descent - with the other big favourites in Chaves, Majka and Zakarin all there too.
We have the other escapees arriving in drips and drabs now... back with the peloton, it's still Battaglin on the front for Kruijswijk - although Igor Anton is there for Dimension Date, oddly enough, too.
Second place for Moreno Moser of Cannondale, who had his pocket picked by Etixx there. Brambilla took third and he won't be too displeased - he already has his win, and that will be a further boost for the Etixx camp.
That was a complete Etixx-QuickStep ambush there as Trentin dropped the other chasers behind before shooting past the two leaders on the home straight. Brambilla knew he was there and so did none of the pacing on the front, while Moser was completely taken by susprise!
Wow - Matteo Trentin is catching them and it looks like Moser has no idea he's there because Trentin soars past and takes the win right at the very death!
Trentin is in pursuit so Etixx have two men for the finale...
The leading duo still have 15 seconds as they go under the flamme rouge... who will win the sprint?
Now it's the very steep and twisting descent, and they're going to hit the final neck and neck.
Moser sets the early pace before Brambilla comes through. But there's nothing separating the two men as they go over the top...
It's onto the cobbles and the climb of San Maurizio... oh no, Rovny overcooks the bend and goes into the barriers from the chasing group! He stays up but loses touch...
The finish is quite like the Strade Bianche finale in Siena. Brambilla came undone then - but will he put it right here? Remember, Moser is a former winner of Strade Bianche...
Just 18 seconds now for Brambilla and Moser... it's going to be a tight finish.
Battaglin did it on the ascent - and he's doing it on the descent too. Sterling team-work from the Italian for his LottoNL-Jumbo leader Kruijswick.
Over the top goes the peloton and it's a question of stalemate ahead of the Alpine showdowns of the next two days. They trail the leaders by 12:35. Meanwhile, the four-man chasing group are 28 seconds down on the two leaders, Brambilla and Moser. Etixx-QuickStep have two cards to play so they must be favourites for a victory in about 10 minutes time...
Descent done for the leaders, who have a four-man group in pursuit: Arndt, Rovny, Modolo and Trentin. No time gaps yet. Hang on, here you go, it's 35 seconds...
Battaglin still pulling up the maglia rosa - a superb effort from the Italian. A topless man brandishing a Russian flag is running alongside Zakarin.
Brambilla still leading the descent but he's not managing to shake off Moser, so it will come down to that final cobbled climb of San Maurizio later on.
Brambilla and Moser are on the fast descent, while there's no action in the pack, which is slowly being whittled down, but has yet to experience any attacks. Esteban Chaves is there, but isolated. Zakarin has Taaramae, while Nibali has two team-mates - but no Fuglsang, who's been dropped.
Kruijswijk has team-mate Enrico Battaglin helping him on the front of the pack. No attacks so far, with Valverde, Amador and Visconti all there for Movistar.
Brambilla goes over the top in pole position ahead of Moser to take the KOM points. Meanwhile, Arndt is caught near the summit by Rovny. They're about 40 seconds down.
The pack have just started the climb themselves, with Kruijswijk on the front and monitoring his rivals. He has Valverde and Majka in his wheel, with Nibali a bit further back.
Brambilla is now dictating the pace after letting Moser do the damage earlier in the climb. There are numerous accelerations from the Etixx rider, but Moser has it all covered. The road is very narrow and distressed - best that they're going up, and not down (as they did during the 2011 Tour de France, when Thomas Voeckler overshot a corner and ended up in someone's driveway).
Nikias Arndt of Giant-Alpecin is in pursuit of these two leaders, who are approaching the summit.
The pack are onto that cobbled climb into Pinerolo - and Kruijswijk is right on the front in third place, keeping out of trouble. He has team-mate Bram Tankink in front of him setting the tempo.
Movistar, Katusha and LottoNL-Jumbo lead the pack over the finish line, trailing the leaders by 13:40. It's still Brambilla and Moser on the front - one going for his second win in this race, the other for a maiden Giro stage win.
Rovny ups the tempo and takes Brambilla and Moser with him. McCarthy is in pursuit... but he's then joined by Tinkoff team-mate Rovny after the Russian drops back.
Oss and Knees the latest riders to be dropped... Moser and Brambilla lead the way. Trentin is there, as is Rovny and Domont and Trentin.
The break is onto the Cat.2 climb of Pramartino (4.5km at 10.5%). The group splits straight away and there are just 11 riders out in the leading group.
Brutt is back with the break after his brief cameo out in front but Ligthart has been dropped yet again. The Belgian has been suffering on the rolling terrain since winning the intermediate sprint.
And now the winding descent. Wow, this is going to be quite a spicy finale when they come down here for the second time...
Brutt is now onto the narrow cobbled climb of San Maurizio, which peaks out at 20%. It's a real brute - and this is where it will all happen the second time round. It's going to be a huge GC scramble, that's for sure. Back with the escapees, it's Cannondale duo Moser and NAvardauskas who lead the chase, with Brambilla in their wheel.
Pavel Brutt is riding along the finish straight at Pinerolo - but it's not over yet, he still has that out-and-back loop that includes the climb to Pramartino before he can sit back and celebrate. And the next time he crosses the line, it's anyone's guess what position he'll be in. My guess is, um, 17th. Anyway, he's 12 seconds clear for now.
The break is now back together in pursuit of lone leader, Pavel Brutt. The Russian veteran from Tinkoff still holds around 10 seconds so he won't be out for much longer.
Now Albert Timmer and Modolo - or Mohoric - have a pop. It's no longer very settled, this breakaway group. It's because they know that the race is between them, and no one else, for the stage win.
Trentin and Knees try their luck in chasing down Brutt, who is riding solo ahead after dropping Le Gac. Brutt has 17 seconds on the others, with the peloton 13 minutes back.
Yes, Mohoric is back with the break, and it's Brutt and Le Gac who now lead the race with a gap of 12 seconds over their fellow escapees.
The LottoNL-Jumbo-led pack is still riding at 11:50 and just negotiated the bend where Stefan Kung came down. The Austrian is still fighting back on and has almost rejoined the break.
Having fought back on, Roger Kluge is now on the attack! Superb stuff from the IAM Cycling rider, who's clearly been emboldened by yesterday's stage win. He's reeled in but then Pavel Brutt and Olivier Le Gac zip clear. Still unclear whether Mohoric is ahead or back with the other escapees.
Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida) has opened up a small gap over the other escapees after that descent. He's in full aero mode as he tries to stretch it out near the bottom of the descent, but you sense he's going way too early here.
CRASH: Stefan Kung (BMC) crashes on a hairpin from the break - the Austrian hasn't had much luck in this Giro, he also crashed on the opening time trial back in Apeldoorn.
Some of the escapees have been dropped on this small uncategorised climb, the Colletta di Cumiana. Roger Kluge, yesterday's winner, is one of them, as is Pim Ligthart. Daniel Oss and Albert Timmer are currently leading the break on the descent...
A quick look at what the riders will be tackling tomorrow... how stunning is that? The Colle delle Agnello looks majestic...
After 165-odd kilometres of flat we're onto the rolling roads that should spice things up between here and Pinerolo. The gap is 12 minutes now for the leaders.
Bit of a flashpoint in the break as Solomennikov is forced to veer to his left to avoid hitting Busato, who tries to ride through a small gap, inexplicably. All a bit unnecessary and unexpected, to be honest. Still, no harm done.
Gap is up to 11:45 now so there's absolutely no doubt that one of these 24 riders will win today's stage.
BELGIAN DEFIANCE: Pim Ligthart of Lotto-Soudal wins the second intermediate sprint at Rivoli ahead of Italians Modolo, Trentin and Oss.
It's the LottoNL-Jumbo team of race leader Steven Kruijswijk who control the tempo on the front of the pack, which is rolling along 11:15 behind the 24-man group (in which 15 teams are represented). The best placed rider in the break is that man Brambilla, the former leader, who is now 55 minutes in arrears.
Here's a sneak peak of the San Maurizio cobbled climb that comes just ahead of the finish today, which peaks out at 20% and should be fairly explosive. It also comes after the Cat.2 climb of Pramartino which itself is a 4.5km ascent at a 10% average. In short, it's going to be tough!
Having started the stage just north of Milan, the riders are now approaching Turin, which they will skirt en route to Pinerolo today. Then in three days they'll be back for Sunday's finale after those back-to-back days spent primarily in the French Alps. Not a bad looking city, all things considered...
Impressive that Daniel Oss is here again - the shaggy-haired Italian from BMC was in yesterday's break, and indeed in many other breaks. In fact, he's been the most aggressive rider in this year's Giro with more breakaway kilometres racked up than any other. Today he has team-mate Stefan Kung for company - plus six other fellow Italians.
The gap is up to 11 minutes now for these leaders, so it's all going well. Looks like we'll have to races out there today in the finale - one for the stage, and the other for GC.
Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) won the intermediate sprint at Chivassa. The Italian is currently in fifth place in the points classification on 102pts. The leader and red jersey is Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek-Segafredo on 185 points. He won the red jersey last year without winning a stage - something he looks set to replicate again this year after missing out yesterday to Roger Kluge, who, incidentally, is in this break today for IAM Cycling.
Brambilla isn't the only one who could win it from this break, mind - although he does have Etixx team-mate Matteo Trentin to help pave the way. Moreno Moser is a tidy climber and has a lot to prove, plus a strong Cannondale team-mate in Ramunas Navardauskas. There's also Matej Mohoric of Lampre-Merida and Axel Domont of Ag2R-La Mondiale - definitely ones to watch. Oh, and there's Tinkoff's Ivan Rovny too... remember him? Gianluca Brambilla certainly does...
Not long until the intermediate sprint at Chivasso - not that the break will be particularly motivated by that. The big target today will be the stage win - and at this rate, it's looking good for the 24 riders out in front. Gianluca Brambilla is probably the best climber of them and so the Etixx-QuickStep rider - who wore pink earlier after his win in Arezzo - is a safe shout for a second stage victory.
The average speed for the first hour today was 48.3 kmph and the second hour it was 47.35 kmph - so quite fast once again.
Once again, some lovely scenery on the Giro... a pre-taster of things to come in the Alps over the next two days.
The break rode through the feedzone at Crescentino with a lead of 10 minutes. Talking of food, Eurosport's Jono Harris-Bass is doing a Giro food blog and here's his latest offering...
Some familiar faces in this break, which has been out since 13km. The full composition is: Axel Domont (AG2R-La Mondiale), Davide Malacarne (Astana), Stefan Kung, Daniel Oss (BMC), Moreno Moser, Ramunas Navadauskas (Cannondale), Gianluca Brambilla, Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep), Olivier le Gac (FDJ), Andrey Solomennikov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling), Sacha Modolo, Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida), Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal), Genki Yammamoto, Gianfranco Zilioli (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Nikias Arndt, Alberto Timmer (Giant-Alpecin), Christian Knees (Team Sky), Pavel Brutt, Jay McCarthy, Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff) and Julen Amezqueta Moreno (Wilier Triestina-Southeast).
We pick up the race LIVE after the first 100km of riding with a group of 24 riders rolling along around 10 minutes ahead of the peloton.
The remaining 161 riders rolled out of Muggio this morning at 10:22 BST. One non-starter: Manuel Belletti of Wilier-Southeast.
It was bright and sunny at the start in Muggio ahead of the longest stage of the 2016 Giro d'Italia.
Dutch maglia rosa Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished safely in the main pack to retain his three-minute lead over Colombia's Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) in the general classification with four days remaining in the 99th edition of La Corsa Rosa.
Germany's Roger Kluge caused a massive upset with a last-ditch attack to defy the sprinters and win stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia in Cassano d'Adda. One day after IAM Cycling announced they were folding at the end of the season, Kluge gave the Swiss team their first Grand Tour stage win since their inception four years ago in a dramatic off-script conclusion to the 196-kilometre stage from Molveno.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia! The longest stage of the race is a largely flat 240km ride from Muggio to Pinerolo which has a sting in the tail: a tough double-digit climb to Pramartino before a dangerous drop to the finish. The perfect occasion for Vincenzo Nibali to save his Giro, perhaps?