Giro d’Italia 2022 : Stage 18 – Dries De Bondt grabs the stage as the break deny sprinters

Dries De Bondt  (Alpecin-Fenix) grabbed a glorious victory on Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia as magnificent collaboration within the four-man break denied the sprinters their last chance for glory. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) retains pink and BORA-hansgrohe’s Jai Hindey can breathe a huge sigh of relief that his puncture occurred in the final 3KM so one minute deficit doesn’t count. The biggest change on GC came as Joao Almeida (UAE Team-Emirates) was forced to abandon the Giro due to a positive covid test overnight.

Riders of the Race

I haven’t chosen riders for this category at the Giro, but I have to award it to the whole breakaway today. Stand up and wave your pompoms for Dries De Bondt, Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma), Davide Gabburo (Bardiani), and Magnus Cort (EF Education EasyPost).

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On paper, this stage looked like a nailed-on sprint finish. One last reward for the fast men who have survived the mountain stages. However, the third week of any Grand Tour takes its toll on the peloton and, as so often happens at the Giro, the late transition stage didn’t go to script.

The balance remained in favour of the sprint teams as they controlled who got into the break and then kept the four on a tight, two-minute leash over the opening kilometres. One of those cat-and-mouse games where the pace of the break was dictated by the peloton and vice versa.

All that changed when the break accelerated hard when the flat roads gave way to rolling parcours. It was the perfect place to do so, especially with the Mur du Huy-style ramps of the Muro di Ca’ del Poggio on the horizon. No sprint team would increase their speed over climbs for fear of taking the sting out of their team leader’s legs.

The tifosi were out in force on the climb.

A furious chase ensued across the Veneto plains towards Treviso, but the four out front were on a mission. No one missed a turn, they knew they could not afford to faff about. It was four extremely strong riders versus the combined might of the sprint teams, yet the gap wasn’t decreasing fast enough. They were still holding a 50 second gap with 5km to go on the finishing circuits through the streets of Treviso.

Hurtling into the finish they knew they wouldn’t be caught and lined up for the sprint finish where De Bondt powered away to pip Affini on the line.  His first Grand Tour win and Alpecin-Fenix’s third at this Giro – from three different riders!

There will be talk about how the sprinter teams messed up their ‘calculations’, but I’d rather outline how brilliant the break were and how perfectly they played their cards. First, there were four exceptionally strong riders: Cort – with GT wins a-plenty, Affini – a time trial wizard, De Bondt – who took a flyer on stage 11, and Gabburo – a Bardiani breakaway specialist. Second, they implemented the perfect strategy, accelerate away exactly where the chasers couldn’t chase hard and finally, no faffing, only co-operation. They were the perfect quartet for the stage they traversed. I live for the joy of days like this. CHAPEAU

Here’s your highlights and listen to Dries explain how they pulled off the steal.

The GC news

The stage started with news that no cycling fan wanted to hear, Joao Almeida unable to take the start due to a positive Covid test. His abandon means that everyone behind him on GC shuffles up one place, and Juanpe Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) takes over the maglia bianca as best placed young rider. We will never know if Joao could have clawed his way back to the podium and his tenacity and grinta in the mountain stages will be missed.

The pressure applied by the frantic chase in those final kilometres meant that gaps started to appear in the chasing group. Juanpe Lopez found himself on the wrong side of a split and despite his Trek Segafredo team time trialling their way to the finish, he lost nearly three minutes

My heart just about dropped to shoes when the live feed showed Jai Hindley off the pace in the finale. The cameras hadn’t shown the incident, just the aftermath. No one knew what had happened, or more importantly, where it had happened !! He came over the line cool and calm but a long way off his rivals.

There was a collective PHEW, when it became clear he’d had a mechanical and it was within the final 3km. He remains at 3 seconds from the maglia rosa, and I expect him to be snapping at Richard Carapaz’s heels in the stages to come. VAI VAI JAI!

Final thought

My Danish heart…

All the results

Stage results 

1 Dries De Bondt (Alpecin Fenix) 3:21:21

2 Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) same time

3 Magnus Cort (EF Education EasyPost) s.t

4 Davide Gabburo (Bardiani CSF Faizane ) s.t

5 Alberto Dainese (DSM) +0:14

GC Top 10 

1 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) 76:41:15

2 Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe) +0:03

3 Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) +1:05

4 Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +5:48

5 Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) +6:19

6 Jan Hirt (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) +7:12

7 Emanual Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) +7:13

8 Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) +12:30

9 Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) +15:10

10 Hugh Carthy (EF Education EasyPost)  +17:03

All the jerseys

Leader’s jersey : Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)

Points jersey : Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ)

King of the Mountains: Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma)

Best young rider: Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo)

Team : Bahrain Victorious

For full race results, go to CyclingNews

Official Giro d’Italia website is here

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