Alberto Bettiol powers to first Grand Tour stage win
Alberto Bettiol (EF-Nippo) came out on top after chasing down and dropping the French time trial champion, Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) in the final 8km before soloing to the line.
It looked for all the world that Cavagna had it in the bag, but the 2019 Tour of Flanders winner Bettiol had other ideas and used the short climbs to his advantage.
Attacking on the penultimate kick, Bettiol powered it on along the valley bottom with Nicolas Roche (DSM) bridging to the Italian before being dropped on the final climb. Bettiol made it to Cavagna and continued his pace past him which cracked the Frenchman.
Bettiol then managed to solo to the line as Cavagna started slipping back out of contention. Simone Consonni (Cofidis) sprinted to second place, passing Roche just before the line.
It's 27-year-old Bettiol's first Grand Tour stage win, and first-ever professional win in his home country. As one of the stand-out riders of the Giro d'Italia so far in his support of Hugh Carthy, it's a win his performances thoroughly deserved.
Rémi Cavagna's planned move didn't have the legs
Cavagna said at the start of the day that he wanted to get into the breakaway and go for the stage win after a fairly innocuous Giro so far.
He got in the main break and put in a huge attack with 26km to go. Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Fenix) tried to follow but immediately sat back down and was swallowed up by the rest of the break.
Cavagna then put on a nervy show on the first descent, going wide on multiple corners. Bettiol then used the next climb to hit away from the chasing group. Cavagna's gap started to drop with the Frenchman being caught near the top of the final climb.
The Deceuninck - Quick-Step rider had absolutely nothing left and blew up, finishing back in ninth on the day, 24 seconds behind Bettiol.
It was back in 2018 when Deceuninck - Quick-Step took a stage win at the Giro d'Italia with Max Schachmann coming out on top.
Important easy stage for Ineos Grenadiers and Egan Bernal
Egan Bernal will be hoping that he has put stage 17 behind him as he passes Nairo Quintana in the record for a Colombian in the leaders' jersey at the Giro d'Italia, with 10 days in pink.
But the long slow day for him and his team-mates may be exactly what he needs going into two big mountain stages and the final individual time trial to finish off the race in Milan.
After the stage, Bernal said he hopes that he has put his bad legs behind him with no mention of his back problems that saw him abandon last year's Tour de France.
More General Classification riders abandon
Yet more big-name riders abandoned the race ahead of stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia, with Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), who slipped from sixth to 10th on Wednesday's stage after a crash, abandoning before the start.
The Italian did actually sign on for the stage but after his team doctor assesed him again, the decision was taken to keep him safe and pull him out of the race.
Ciccone crashed along with Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) who also announced that would not start the 18th day at the Giro due to his injuries.
They join the likes of Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious), Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers), and multiple other big-name riders who have left the race.
Sprinters miss last chance for a win
It was the last realistic stage for the fast-men at the Giro d'Italia but Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) all marked each other out of the day's key breakaway.
The peloton then decided to let the break go instead of dragging it back, with Sagan and his Bora-Hansgrohe team happy to let the escapees hoover up the sprint points and protect the ciclamino jersey from Cimolai and Gaviria.
It is likely that Sagan will now hold the points jersey all the way to the finish now as long as he makes time cuts and doesn't crash out.
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