Max Schachmann of Quick-Step Floors took his maiden Grand Tour victory on a day the breakaway contested the stage win for the first time this Giro. However, the headlines are all about what happened behind him. Stage 18 saw the first of three summit finishes that will decide the destination of the maglia rosa and who gets to share the podium in Rome. Simon Yates had his first bad day finishing with his advantage over Tom Dumoulin slashed to just 28 seconds to set up a nail-biting finale.
Rider of the race
At last, a proper day for the breakaway. Twelve riders representing eight teams got away early and it was obvious from the pace behind that the peloton was happy for them to fight it out for stage honours. When the group hit the final slope up to Prato Nevoso they had an unheard of advantage of more than 15 minutes!
Max Schachmann took his chance with style, but my rider of the day is Ruben Plaza of Israel Cycling Academy [surely one of THE BEST names in cycling – ed].Embed from Getty Images
As the breakaway splintered on the early slopes of the final climb, Plaza looked in trouble. The Spaniard was swinging all over the road and looking every one of his 38 years. However, a kilometre later he was back with the leaders, doggedly carrying on with his tempo whilst Christophe Pfingsten (BORA-hansgrohe), Mattia Cattaneo (Androni-Sidermec) and Schachmann toyed with each other. He was dropped several more times but he always got back on terms with the leaders. You could see his experience coming through as he measured his effort and was never tempted to match the acceleration of his younger rivals.
As the race entered the final kilometre it was Schachmann v Cattaneo v Plaza. Cattaneo could hold on no longer and Schachmann and Plaza went clear. For a while it looked as if the unthinkable might happen – that Plaza could stage the ultimate resurrection. It wasn’t to be.
Schachmann took his first grand tour win and notched up another victory for Quick Step this week. Plaza looked empty. It may be his last chance at the grand tour stage win, but he can hold his head high after his performance today. He may not have had the race-winning strength of Schachmann, but he showed how determination mixed with race-smarts can turn you from an also-ran into a contender.
As the main group hit the steeper slopes of the climb things started to get interesting. First Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar) traded blows. The South Americans both have their eyes on the young rider classification and it’s obvious this battle will continue.
With 2 kilometres to go Sunweb’s Big Tom upped the pace. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Bahrain-Merida’s Domenico Pozzovivo stuck to him like glue. The group came together again for a while until Chris Froome (Sky) decided to go for it. This set off alarm bells as Pozzovivo realised his podium place was under threat and had to counter. Dumoulin was able to follow but the Yates couldn’t. Alarm bells rang louder when he couldn’t stay with the group containing Patrick Konrad (BORA-hansgrohe), Pello Bilbao (Astana) and Carapaz. The British rider could only watch as his GC rivals all headed off towards the finish scooping handfuls of time.
Dumoulin halved Yates’ GC advantage to just 28 seconds. Before the stage, it seemed this might be a day that suited the Dutchman. It did. The fact Yates couldn’t keep up will have suited him even more. We are all set for a memorable next couple of stages. Dumoulin will sense he can win this. Has Yates got anything more to give?
Here’s what they said afterwards..
I feel amazing, it’s great to win a stage on my first grand tour. It’s a really hard Giro and that makes it even nicer to [win] here. – Max Schachmann
That’s okay – I didn’t have great legs. I did the best I could and that’s it. I’m still in front so it’s all good. – Simon Yates
I was waiting until the moment 2 kilometres to go. I tried to see what was possible and Yates responded. Froome attacked then Pozzovivo. I followed them and I found out [Yates] was dropped. The coming two days are going to be different and even harder than today – Tom Dumoulin
Three things that caught the eye…
He’s a man, not a boy – While Trek-Segafredo’s Boy van Poppel made a doomed attack from the breakaway I was amazed to find out that he is 30 years old. I’ve no idea what it is about him that made me assume he was permanently under 25!
Fonzi’s still last – Guiseppe Fonzi of Wilier Triestina – Selle Italia was the last placed man on general classification this morning but got himself into the breakaway. For a while, it looked like he’d get rid of the unwanted accolade. Eventually, he came in 27 minutes down on Schachmann so he still holds the maglia nera [got to admit he had me worried for a bit – ed]. Meanwhile, I’ve got through this whole paragraph without any obvious jokes, happy days!
Onwards – this is what awaits us tomorrow. With the top five separated by so little time, it’s going to be a cracker.
Chad Haga speaks!
He really is the master of under statement.
1 Max Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors) 4:55:42
2 Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy) +10secs
3 Mattia Cattaneo (Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia) +16secs
4 Christoph Pfingsten (BORA-hansgrohe) +1:10
5 Marco Marcato (UAE) +1:26
11 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +10:48
12 Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) +11:03
13 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) same time
14 Chris Froome (Sky) s/t
15 Wout Poels (Sky) +11:07
16 Patrick Konrad (BORA-hansgrohe) +11:23
17 Pello Bilbao (Astana) same time
18 Richard Carapaz (Movistar) s/t
20 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +11:31
GC Top 10
1 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) 75:06:24
2 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) +0:28
3 Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) +2:43
4 Chris Froome (Sky)+3:22
5 Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +4:24
6 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) +5:54
7 Rohan Dennis (BMC) +5:09
8 Pello Bilbao (Astana) +5:54
9 Richard Carapaz (Movistar) +5:59
10 Patrick Konrad (BORA-hansgrohe) +7:05
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
Points jersey: Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors)
KOM jersey: Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
Best young rider: Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
Full stage report from Cycling News
Header Image: Max Schachmann – Tim de Waele/Getty Images