Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) took his fourth stage victory of the 2018 Giro d’Italia, sprinting ahead of Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) to the finish in Iseo on stage 17.
The Italian was able to benefit from a late lead-out by two team-mates, and was dropped off perfectly within the last 100 metres for him sprint from the front of the pack towards the line as the rain fell heavily at the finish.
Bennett, who clearly had the speed for victory, found himself quite far back and was forced to move wide on the right of the road as Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) began his sprint. The Irishman was able to get close to Viviani, but just ran out of road as they approached the line.
The win for Viviani effectively wraps up the maglia ciclamino points classification, with three tough mountain stages to come and a final sprint in Rome on Sunday.
Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was able to come home safely on the 17th day of racing at the Giro, maintaining his lead in the maglia rosa by 56 seconds over second overall Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). There were no changes in the top-10 overall at the end of the stage.
How it happened
After stage 16’s time trial, the peloton faced a relatively short 155km stage from Riva del Garda to Iseo, with nearly all of the climbing coming in the first half of the race before a flat final section.
That meant a lot of riders would interested in getting in a breakaway over the early climbs and putting in a significant gap into the peloton behind in hope of victory.
With the mountains looming on the coming stages, there was a huge fight to make the break, with constant attacking from a whole host of riders with Mitchelton-Scott and Bora-Hansgrohe the main teams closing gaps to those out front.
With around 85km to go a group finally formed, but were restricted to just a maximum gap of 25 seconds on the bunch thanks in part to the presence of Sky’s Wout Poels, who sat at around 10 minutes down on the overall.
He was joined by his team-mate Kenny Elissonde, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida), Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Alexandre Geniez (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Max Schachmann (Quick-Step), but it never looked promising.
They were eventually dragged back with around 66km to go, but Poels was not keen on letting the break fade away.
De Marchi likewise wanted a group to stay away and attacked with 64km to go, taking Sanchez, Poels and Hermans with him.
The peloton eventually relented in its pursuit of the group of four, allowing a gap of almost 1-30 to grow out, safe in the knowledge they could bring them back on the flat run to the finish and set things up for a sprint to the line.
The four out front rode well together, but as they reached the finishing circuit in Isea, the gap was tenuous at just 40 seconds or so.
Poels was the first to give up and go back to the bunch with 21km to go, before Hermans had to relent with the fierce pace that Sanchez and De Marchi were holding out front.
That pair were able to maintain 22 seconds on the peloton as LottoNL-Jumbo and Bora marshalled the front, allowing the breakers to ride with a small gap before bringing it all back together with 11.7km to go to set up a sprint.
With that catch coming quite early, it opened up the possibility of attacks with Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) going for it with 9km to go with Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe chasing.
The latter pair refused to work with Brambilla with a respective sprinter in Danny van Poppel and Sam Bennett back in the bunch, with Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step) and Sergio Henao (Team Sky) bridging across before they were quickly caught by the bunch.
With 5km to go and Mitchelton-Scott on the front protecting race leader Yates, Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin) was the next to have an attack and was able to gain seven seconds on the peloton. The Dutchman’s efforts were in vain though, and was brought back with 3km to go.
LottoNL-Jumbo led into the final kilometre, but Quick-Step were able to reorganise to put Viviani to the front as the peloton approached the line.
From there he was able to launch his sprint clear out front, and take a fifth career stage win at the Giro and setup victory in the points classification.
Stage 18 of the Giro will see the GC fight come back to the fore with 196km from Abbiategrasso to Prato Nevoso with a category one summit finish.
Giro d’Italia 2018, stage 17: Riva del Garda to Iseo (155km)
1 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, in 3-19-57
2 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
3 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
4 Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
5 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy
7 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
8 Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac
9 Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
10 José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin, all same time
Overall classification after stage 17
1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 69-59-11
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 56s
3 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 3-11
4 Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 3-50
5 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 4-19
6 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team, at 5-04
7 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team, at 5-37
8 Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 6-02
9 Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team, at 6-07
10 George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 7-01