No change in the overall standings so Richard Carapaz will enter the final two mountain stages with 1'54" over Vincenzo Nibali and 2'16" over Primoz Roglic. Thanks for following the blog today and see you tomorrow... Ciao ragazzi!
Valdaora - Santa Maria di Sala
Giro d'Italia - 30 May 2019
Giro d'Italia – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 11:10 on 30 May 2019. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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Here's today's stage result...
The German champion Ackermann slammed his hands down on the barriers there after missing out on a third win but as a consolation he'll take back the maglia ciclamino because Demare only finished eighth. Serves Groupama-FDJ right for not helping out...
What a ride there from the breakaway and what a finish from Cima! He got in the break to pick up intermediate sprint points but ended up winning the stage... only the second win of his career.
It was second place for Bora's Pascal Ackermann and third for Simoni Consonni of UAE. Then Florian Senechal for QuickStep and Ryan Gibbons for Dimenaion Data.
Cima is the last escapee left but just holds on for first place - and his Nippo-Vini Fantini's first ever stage win on the Giro!
VICTORY FOR DAMIANO CIMA!!!
No dawdling or they will be caught... and Groupama now give it some welly!
Under the flamme rouge goes the break. Cima, Maestri and Denz in that order, with 15 seconds.
Round the bend the go and now the trio are on the home straight. Which one of them will win? Because no one behind will...
I think they will hold on. Just 29 seconds now with 2km to go and that left-hand corner coming up...
Cima and Maestri close the gap and then they start to look at each other - that could be the death knell of the break: they need to continue riding hard. Gap is still in their favour: 33 seconds.
Now Denz attacks! The German puts in a dig...
Five to go! And the gap is 45 seconds. Katusha have edged clear for Marco Haller... perhaps Matt Stephens will get it right!
Movistar are now on the front with their man Carapaz to keep him out of trouble before the 3km mark. The gap is still 50 seconds for the escapees.
Groupama are playing a canny game here: they're present but not really contributing. If there's a sprint, they'd love Demare to win, but if not, it suits him fine that many of the ciclamino points will be taken.
Lotto Soudal have a rider on the front. He's clearly forgotten that both Caleb Ewan and Robert Kluge have gone home. Unless he's freelancing for a chum on another team...
A gap emerged between Denz and his Italian companions, who close it down and then come through for a pull. Still one minute.
The gap's one minute now with Bora still on the front and Groupama-FDJ finally - finally! - adding some bodies to the chase.
My head says they will be caught but my heart says the winner comes from this trio. Imagine if Ag2R-La Mondiale make it two wins in as many days - having not previously won a stage since 2011.
This is going to be incredibly close... 1'15" now.
Today's finish has two big corners either side of the 5km mark then it's a long, straight flat road for 3km before the road hooks a left and we have a final straight of 1.7km. The gap is 1'30".
Bora have committed four riders to the chase now alongside the ubiquitous Israel Cycling Academy. Two minutes.
You sense that it will be just a bit too much to ask for these three riders. They're burying themselves but surely the collective drive of the peloton will end their chances within the final 10km. The latest gap is 2'12".
Our three escapees are showing some real desire here as they maintain a 2'32" lead over the pack, in which the seeds of doubt have been sown.
The gap drops below four minutes as the frenzied chase continues apace, stringing out the peloton considerably.
A reminder of our three leaders: Nico Denz (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF) and Damiano Cima (Nippo-Vini Fantini). Can the French team make it two from two after yesterday's win for Nans Peters?
QuickStep are now edging up to help out with the chase, as are Androni, Dimension Data, Groupama, Bora and Israel Cycling Academy. There's an element of doubt with the gap still a healthy 4'30" for the three leaders.
Interestingly, Richard Carapaz is now riding a pink bike. He hadn't succumbed to the temptation before but he's now gone for it so he must be feeling confident. That said, it's more of a purple - nay, ciclamino - than it is pink, but hey ho.
We're into the last fifty clicks now and the gap is down to 4'30" for the trio ahead.
DRAMA: Andrea Vendrame stops on the side of the road to greet what we presume are his friends and family in the town of Spresiano.
The camara man zooms in on Demare as he chomps on some cheese - the Frenchman smiles and then inadvertently spits up a bit of his snack which spatters across his chin. Nice.
When the peloton comes through it's Demare and Ackermann who power clear but the Frenchman takes 6pts for third place with ease as the German takes his foot off the gas and pockets 4pts. So, Demare has extended his lead to 15pts now in the maglia ciclamino standings. CORRECTION: it's 5pts for Demare and 4pts for Ackermann and so the gap is 14pts not 15pts.
A strange moment as a man comes into the middle of the road and throws a bike on the ground - it smashes and the wheel rolls off as the man walks off and gesticulates. This all happens just as the three leaders are passing, but luckily they avoid getting tangled up in it.
The trio are entering Conegliano for the intermediate sprint. Cima wants these points: yesterday, he dropped behind Fausto Masnada in the intermediate sprint standings and a win here would put him back on top. But then, oddly enough, he lets Maestri ride through the sprint in pole position. So perhaps he's not that bothered after all...
Groupama and Bora are readying their trains ahead of the intermediate sprint, which could prove all-important in the maglia ciclamino battle. Both Demare and Ackermann have got rid of their jackets and are readying themselves for a little tussle.
CRASH: Two riders are down in the pack after an incident which wasn't caught on TV. It's Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott) and Lukasz Owsian (CCC Team) who hit the deck in the suburbs of a town approaching the intermediate sprint. They'll both get back up but the Australian isn't happy and the Pole looks to have some nasty road rash on his left elbow.
The three leaders are passing through the narrow cobbled streets of Vittorio Veneto with a gap of four minutes. Behind, the peloton is all strung out as Bora and ICA continue the chase, working for their respective sprinters Ackermann and Cimolai. Other potential fast finishers today include Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates), Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli), Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data). But to be fair, it's really slim pickings. Deceuninck-QuickStep still have Fabio Sabatini, who is usually Elia Viviani's lead-out man, but in the absence of the Italian champion perhaps he'll have a pop.
Scenes in the Eurosport studio over Adam Blythe's colourful choice of shirt...
The pace ramps up for the leading trio as Cima drops back momentarily on a sweeping downhill after the road rose once again following the climb. Their gap is 4'30" and surely it's a matter of when, and not if.
The pace has slowed as many riders drop back to pick up rain capes and jackets. They're heading past the Lago di Santa Croce, which I imagine would look far better in the sunshine. The gap is five minutes.
It's started to rain on the other side of this climb with the escapees currently getting moderately wet.
Israel Cycling Academy, Bora and Dimension Data have a rider each on the front of the pack, with Bahrain Merida and Movistar tucked in behind, working for their GC men Vincenzo Nibali and Richard Carapaz (and Mikel Landa). Cesare Benedetti is there for Bora - the domestique whose job it is to reel in breaks but who got his chance to shine when winning stage 12 in Pinerolo last week. They go over the top 5'45" in arrears.
The three leaders are approaching the summit on a beautiful newly tarmacked road. This gentle big-ring climb has taken them up into the trees on what appears to be a gentle gradient... and it's Damiano Cima who puts in a subtle acceleration to take the KOM points over the top ahead of the other two, Dens and Maestri, in that order. Denz shakes his head as if he's a bit peeved, but they're all smiles after the summit.
We're onto the Cat.4 climb to Pieve di Alpago, for which the Giro organisers have supplied no information in the roadbook. It's about 6km long of an indeterminate gradient. In any case, it won't have any bearing on the maglia azzurra battle (which has already been won by Giulio Ciccone) or the outcome of today's stage, in all likelihood.
The gap has stretched out to a Charlotte Gainsbourg-esque 5'55" as the riders pass through the feed zone ahead of the climb.
The gap is up to 4'20" now for the three leaders as they edge closer to the only categorised climb of the day. The route hugs the wide and largely dry river bed of the Piave as it heads south out of the Dolomites. The finish today is in the outskirts of Venice, not far from Padova.
Slight uphill bump alert! It makes a change for the three leaders - although it's over fast. Their gap is 3'35" and the sky looks fairly ominous with some grey storm clouds gathering. Back with the pack it's Bora and Israel Cycling Academy doing the work - the Groupama-FDJ team of Arnaud Demare are yet to show their hand.
Maestri has taken off his jacket and given it to his Bardiani team car. The break has a lead of 3'10" over the pack. It often seems like a thankless task for escapees on a day like this, destined to be a bunch sprint, but once in a blue moon, the chasing pack makes a hash of it. It can be a miscalculation or something circumstantial like a pile-up or sudden change in weather. But occasionally it happens - and that's why these three riders are there. You never know.
Interestingly, Bora's Ackermann talked down his chances for the win today ahead of the stage. Speaking to Eurosport, the German - who conceded the maglia ciclamino to rival Anraud Demare the day after he crashed heavily in the finale to stage 10 - said: "We cannot control the peloton today. Five of us crashed in the last week, and we have two GC riders." The main goal is not to take the maglia ciclamino but "to get to Verona after my crash. We don't know how the race will go today - maybe a big breakaway or maybe a sprint."
The gap is 2'30" now as the Bora-Hansgrohe team of double stage winner Pascal Ackermann send a man to the front to help out with the chase.
We should add that breakaways larger than 10 riders don't count for the Fuga prize which Cima, Frapporti and Maestri are battling for...
Nice views out there - this one from Dan Friebe of the Cycling Podcast who, like me, is an Arsenal fan and so feeling a bit rough this morning. Unlike me, he's a very patient and tolerant Arsenal fan, who believes this season was a success despite the team being hammered in the Europa League final and making a right hash of qualifying for the Champions League (and therefore signing anyone of any repute) by collapsing to a disgraceful fifth place in the League.
It's worth pointing out that Cima could overtake Marco Frapporti at the top of the Fuga Pinarello competition today - the standings for the escape-iest rider. Going into today's stage Frapporti had amassed 816km in breakaways with Cima a bit further back on 760km. With the gap over three minutes today, it's safe to assume that the latter will leapfrog the former between now and the finish. Maestri is third in these standings but quite far back on a mere 570km going into the stage.
The Israel Cycling Academy team of Italian sprinter Davide Cimolai - who may fancy his chances today given how many top-tier sprinters are absent - have come to the front of the pack to lead the chase. The peloton is now 3'40" down on these three leaders.
That nine-man move fizzled out but we now have three riders out in front with a couple of minutes to play with: Nico Denz (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF) and Damiano Cima (Nippo-Vini Fantini).
The leaders as the race passes through Cortina are: Denz, Montaguti, Maestri, Schwarzmann, Bauer, Cima, Battaglin, Gogl and Bohli. Half of those riders were involved in that earlier eight-man move and so they're clearly keen to get away today.
The peloton has split into three groups on this descent. Nine riders appear to have opened up a small gap.
Meanwhile, in the Eurosport studio...
The climb is over now and still we have no break. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 78km which are pretty much all downhill with the riders dropping from 1,530m to 400m. First up, the swanky ski resort of Cortina d'Ampiezzo.
Some daylight emerges between a cluster of riders and the peloton... and then the darkness descents once again.
There's no let up in the pace as the peloton approaches the end of this climb with no move yet to stick. There was a momentary split in the pack but they're riding as one with the Italian wildcard teams, most notably, among those trying to get men in a break.
The first part of this stage heads uphill on a steady uncategorised climb before the long descent to the only test of the day, the Cat.4 climb to Pieve di Alpago, which summits with 104km remaining.
The riders were Denz, Frapporti, Maestri, Hansen, Canola, Bakelants, Gogl and Bohli. But their move comes to nothing and the peloton is back together.
Eight riders zip clear after 8km to open up a small gap.
One non-starter today: Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates). The Italian wore the maglia jersey for six days after finishing second in the break in stage 6. He was on the attack again yesterday so it's odd to see him leave the race. But apparently he has a persistent saddle sore...
They're off! The remaining 143 riders get this long transitional stage under way...
And finally, here's Arnaud Demare, who leads the maglia ciclamino standings by just 13pts over Pascal Ackermann. Today will be an important day in their ongoing duel...
With just the one categorised climb today - and only a Cat.4 one at that - don't expect to see this guy in any break. Italy's Giulio Ciccone, the stage 16 winner, leads the maglia azzurra standings with an unassailable 163-point lead over Richard Carapaz.
So, Richard Carapaz is sitting pretty in pink with a gap of 1'54" over Vincenzo Nibali. Can he become the first Ecuadorian rider to win a Grand Tour? Here he is with the leader of the white jersey youth classification, Miguel Angel Lopez. The Colombian from Astana is 2'04" ahead of his nearest rival, Pavel Sivakov of Ineos.
Here's the profile for the day - and on paper at least, it looks more of a day for the cilamino jersey than the maglia rosa. But I may be wrong...
Here's the GC picture as we enter the final four days of this 102nd edition of La Corsa Rosa.
Yesterday, pink jersey Richard Carapaz added a handful of seconds to his overall lead on his 26th birthday as Frenchman Nans Peters pulled off a surprise win from the breakaway in Stage 16. Ecuador’s Carapaz rode clear of his general classification rivals alongside Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) in the closing moments of the 181km stage into the Dolomites, extending his lead by another seven seconds over principal rivals Vincenzo Nibali and Primoz Roglic. First over the line at the biathlon shooting range in Antholz was Ag2R-La Mondiale’s Peters, who soloed clear of a strong 18-man break to secure his first professional win - and his team’s first triumph on the Giro since 2011.
Ciao ragazzi! Welcome to live coverage of stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia - a brief hiatus in the battle for pink as the riders travel 222 mostly downhill kilometres between Valdaora and Santa Maria di Sala. One for the sprinters (ie. Ackermann vs Demare) or another chance for the break to go all the way?