Giro Stage 18: Gilbert floors it for a Thursday double

Today’s Giro script was for a breakaway to stay away – that happened – and for the GC guys to save themselves for the next two high mountain stages. That kind of didn’t. Philippe Gilbert took an impressive solo win – the second consecutive Thursday on which he has claimed stage honours – while Alberto Contador decided to show Mikel Landa (Astana) that there’s no forgiveness.

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Rider(s) of the day

I couldn’t make up my mind who would be my rider of the race so I picked two. The first is the stage winner, Philippe Gilbert. This was a team with a plan, making sure both Gilbert and Amaël Moinard were in the day’s 14-man break. Although the Monte Ologno climb split the break apart, with Moinard in the front group of four, PhilGil set off on the descent with another kamikaze descender, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) to bridge to the front group. Bridge he did and went straight past them at the 10km mark. I don’t think the front group knew what happened because in no time, the Belgian was 30 seconds up the road and they never saw him again.

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The other rider of the race for me is Ryder ‘Goggles’ Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin). He very nearly made it to the top of my list on Tuesday but for Contador’s amazing ride but today he rode with purpose. Once Contador attacked at the base of the climb (more on that below), Hesjedal gave chase. Never the most explosive of climbers, he kept grinding away by himself in pursuit of bridging to the maglia rosa. He finally did that near the top of the climb and stayed with Contador through the false flats and the strange little kick-ups, until they rode the descent to the finish. He made time on his rivals and moved up to ninth overall. Expect to see the begoggled rider animating the next two stages – he’s on a mission.

Three things we noticed

1. Bertie’s still pissed off. While Contador might have given Fabio Aru the slapdown of a lifetime on Tuesday after PunctureGate, he didn’t exact any revenge on Mikel Landa. So when Landa was caught behind a crash today, Contador shouted Vamos! to his teammates and they drilled it on the front to the base of the climb, where Contador went off on his own at an angry pace. Now, I’m a bit bewildered by this tactic. Landa was a good four minutes down on AC at the stage start and the climb wasn’t testing enough for him to bring that back, even if he hadn’t crashed. So why did AC expend that kind of energy? Was it because he really was still stewing about Tuesday or is he thinking that he needs even more of a cushion for the next two stages, considering how easily Landa has been zipping up those climbs? He now has 5:15 on Landa. Is that enough, Bertie?

2. Amador has a real shot at third. There is just under a minute separating Aru and Andrey Amador in third and fourth respectively. Today’s climb again seemed to tax the Astana rider, as he was on and off the back of the small chasing group for much of the climb. Unfortunately, once Landa caught the group, any chance of Amador putting Aru on the ropes and stealing time from him was dashed. Can Amador hold on in the high mountains and make up the time for a podium position in Milan?

3. The pink jeans look good with short hair too. We didn’t get much of #FlechaWatch today, due to the second round of the French Open tennis being so important (note sarcasm) so, just in case anyone missed it, Juan Antonio was in his pink jeans again today.

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Stage 18 result

1. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) 4:04:14

2. Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani-CSF) +0:47

3. Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) +1:01

4. Matteo Busato (Southeast) +1:01

5. Amael Moinard (BMC) +1:01

General classification

1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 72:23:09

2. Mikel Landa (Astana) +5:15

3. Fabio Aru (Astana) +6:05

4. Andrey Amador (Movistar) +7:01

5. Yuri Trofimov (Katusha) +9:40

6. Leopold Konig (Sky) +10:44

7. Damiano Caruso (BMC) +11:05

8. Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) +12:53

9. Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) +13:01

10. Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) +14:01

Points leader: Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek),

King of the Mountains leader: Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo).

Best young rider: Fabio Aru (Astana).

Team classification: Astana.

Link: Official race website

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