The breakaway caused a huge shock yesterday after an acute lack of coherent chasing during the final kilometres ultimately conceded the day’s outcome by the sprinters, primarily due to a single well timed attack from Roger Kluge after the final corner. Today’s stage will be a manic affair once again, a long flat opening set to provoke rolling attacks from riders desperate to make it into the day’s breakaway, but it is the finale which causes the most interest. The 240km route from Muggió to Pinerolo features little in the way of challenges for the most part, but the climb of Pramartino will demand an immense effort to surge over its near 20% gradients and could instigate attacks from amongst the general classification rivals.
Giovanni Visconti is likely to take centre stage for Movistar on Stage 18, as though the finale does suit Alejandro Valverde, the Spanish outfit will look to limit their team’s efforts in regards to chasing ahead of further stresses in the mountains. Visconti is in good form thus far at this year’s Giro d’Italia and possesses the required skills to perform convincingly here; climbing, descending and sprinting better that many favourites to make the break today.
Tanel Kangert can definitely feature late on here if he manages to join the right move early on, potentially picking up a rare win at this year’s Giro for Astana. The Estonian rider is certainly strong enough to power over the Pramartino climb, though it shall take an immense effort during the early part of the day to join the decisive move.
Gianluca Brambilla has already enjoyed a successful Giro d’Italia when taking a stage victory and thus wore the maglia rosa for a short time. The Italian is likely to have seen his powers diminish somewhat, though at this point of the race few remain in the condition they entered in, but this stage is very well suited to his attributes. Like many here, the ability to perform well on the Pramartino climb is only half of the equation, as the lighter climbers like Brambilla still face the tough task of joining the day’s move amid a hectic start.
Nicolas Roche is likely to pick up the mantle of saving Sky’s Giro today, the Irishman being plenty strong enough to survive the fast paced opening section, while also having enough to survive the final climb in a position which should keep him in contention. Roche can also deliver a good sprint when required, but this is a well known fact, so he might find it difficult to acquire riders willing to join him out front all day.
A raft of riders are likely to invest the utmost in featuring in Stage 18’s battle for stage honours; Tim Wellens, Jelle Vanendert, Georg Preidler, Francesco Bongiorno, Diego Ullisi and Moreno Moser all potentially making the day’s moves.
Beyond the victor, the most interesting aspect of today is how the general classification riders will tackle the ascent up the steep Pramartino climb. Blessed with the title of ‘The Shark of Messina’, Nibali should know plenty about tasting blood, but on this occasion it is his rivals who sense that he himself is wounded. The result of this might be a concerted effort by both Esteban Chaves and Ilnur Zakarin to bury the Italian champion with a single well timed attack upon the steepest ramps of Pramartino. Alongside this, Alejandro Valverde may view this as an opportunity worth investing his efforts into, attempting to see Steven Kruijswijk crack for the first time. Regardless of who instigates it, the general belief is that Nibali will suffer the greatest if all hell breaks loose here; Astana will need to be well prepared.
1st Giovanni Visconti 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Tanel Kangert