Yesterday proved to be a relaxing enough day amongst the general classification contenders, mostly as a result of the anticipation which has been bubbling up since the shape of Stage 18 was first revealed. Starting in Moena, the day is a comparatively short 137km in length en route to Ortisei / St.Ulrich, featuring a total of five officially recognised climbs. Rising immediately from the start, the day’s racing is bound to prove explosive on such a short mountain stage, beginning with the Category 1 Passo Pordoi. Totalling 11.9km and averaging a gradient of 6.7% with ramps of 9%, the rise is an even affair which will favour those able to maintain a steady pace. A quick descent then follows, leading onwards to the start of the Category 2 Passo Valparola, averaging 6.4% during its 12.3km entirety and kicking upwards to 14% near the summit. Another Category 2 climb follows shortly thereafter, the Passo Gardena (9,3 km, avg 6.4%, max 11%), signifying a change in terrain and marking the start of a stressful run into the finish. Passo di Pinei is a Category 3 climb lasting 4.2 km, averaging a gradient of 6.3% and offering challenging ramps of 15%. The final Category 1 climb of Stage 18 is that of Pontives, a 9.3km ascent which averages 6.8% with sections tipping upwards to 12%.
Mikel Landa has remained combative since the general classification ambitions of Team Sky were sunk in the wake of Geraint Thomas’ departure from the race. The combination of serious ascents and a shorter stage distance should inspire Landa to summon up another aggressive day in the saddle to challenge for the victory. He has options to attack ahead of the final climb from further out, or simply hope that everything is positioned well for him as they duke it out up the
Ilnur Zakarin often aims to reach peak form during the final week of a grand tour and this year’s Giro d’Italia appears to be another example of this tactic. He is not far off the likes of Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali, while his current general classification placing should grant him a degree of freedom to kick on in the final kilometres to take victory.
Vincenzo Nibali has now risen to become a contender for the overall victory at 2o17’s Giro d’Italia, finding his groove in the final week of racing as of late. This makes the Italian rider a dangerous prospect to say the least, with uncertainty surrounding his potential ambitions to secure either another stage victory or aim entirely at taking the maglia rosa in these concluding days.
Nairo Quintana should have little need to attack on Stage 18, especially as the short and explosive nature of the course favours other riders more so than himself. He is definitely the best climber at the race and may view the final climb as a perfect opportunity to take the maglia rosa and secure time over rivals such as Tom Dumoulin.
Those who may also feature are Adam Yates, Steven Kruisjwijk, Dario Cataldo and Thibaut Pinot.
1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Ilnur Zakarin