Giro d'Italia Stage 18 Preview
Nans Peters impressed, and a lot when attacking solo with around 15 kilometers to go, he opened a gap by himself to the big chasing group that formed late in the stage after a furious uphill start. He attacked and was never seen again, and managed to keep and even extend his gap in the climb to the Antholz. Esteban Chaves and Davide Formolo finished on the lower places of the podium, with the Italian benefiting from another doubtful day in the peloton to climb up to the Top 10. In the peloton it was a controlled day until the final climb, Astana pushed the pace early on the ramps, Landa attacked first with Hugh Carthy, and later Richard Carapaz also moved up, the pair, alongside Lopez, managed to gain some seconds on Nibali and Roglic.
Positive: AG2R managed to get a rare win in Italian soil, it makes up for the poor race they've had so far completely. Formolo the big winner of the day though, at a point he was in 5th in the provisional GC, but climbing to 10th with a close gap to the ones in front. Movistar duo, but especially Carapaz will take a big motivation from the 7 seconds he won to Nibali. That time likely won't make a difference in the end of the race, but he has dealt a blow to Nibali's head.
Negative: Majka seems to be cracking. Yesterday wasn't a good sign, today he lost 1:20 minutes to Landa who was first from the peloton. He will like tomorrow as he'll need any bit of recovery to hold on to his Top 10 if he keeps loosing time like this.
Stage 18 will be the final opportunity for the sprinters to show what they're made of. If they've resisted so far and are still in the race they will need to take this opportunity, so as to take a win and also rank up points for the Maglia Ciclamino. The stage is suited to a breakaway with most of it's profile in descending roads in general.
It's a long stage, 222 kilometers and the finish will be soft on those who can't take the best risks, whatever leadout is left for those team at this point will be crucial. And above all, if still in contention for the jersey, it's fighting to resist the next couple of days. The finish isn't technical, with the final almost 2 kilometers in a straight road.
The temperatures are going to get higher which in itself will be a relief for the riders, despite it's breakaway-favourable profile there will be a slight southern wind which won't come as good news for those looking to escape.
There's an essence to tomorrow's stage, although FDJ have a great opportunity to get a stage win, if they don't work they can deny Ackermann of the possibility to get those points back, the ones he needs to take the Maglia Ciclamino. If FDJ want to chase and try to get the stage win than a sprint is for sure to happen if they can control who gets away, if they don't Bora won't be able to chase by themselves for sure, and also won't have the power to neglect a strong breakaway from escaping.
Dèmare and Ackermann are clearly the sprinters that will be looking to be the fastest, there's no doubt about that, as many others abandoned due to the toughness of the race and it's lack of sprint opportunities since stage 12. How the stage develops will come down to FDJ's strategy, but if they work then it's set to be a battle between these two.
Simone Consonni of UAE has had the race hindered by Gaviria and also protecting the lead of Conti and Polanc, tomorrow perhaps he'll have his only chance to sprint with the best. Androni still have a good contingent, Manuel Belletti is one of the good sprinters that's still in the race, with Andrea Vendrame and Francesco Gavazzi they can set up something good tomorrow. Israel have Davide Cimolai, they still have their full squad in the race and a decent leadout for the Italian, so he's expected to be up there as he's been hacing a good race so far. Marco Canola and Juan José Lobato would like an harder finish, still they are two riders who can attack in the final kilometer and are specialists in those efforts, they are also good options for it. There's Ryan Gibbons of Dimension Data, the South African team is having a disapointing race to say the least, but it's young sprinter perhaps has his best chance to make the race worth it. Katusha's Marco Haller and Jenthe Biermans, also not to neglect Enrico Battaglin, but these are far from pure sprinters.
Paulo Simion of Bardiani and Sean Bennett of EF, alongside some other minor names are riders that in an unusual scenario could be up there in contention.
If for a breakaway, it's hard to call who will be there. It's a stage that's suits powerful riders, the rouleurs, some teams like AG2R, CCC and Lotto-Soudal will definetely try to put big riders in front, the big danger from breakaway riders will likely come from them.
⭐ Gibbons, Canola, Haller, Simion, Se.Bennett
I think the peloton will have it's day though, some teams may be motivated by the lack of sprinter depth and put in some riders in the work, so a sprint is very much possible, and I'm going with Ackermann from it.
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