#TBT to stage eight
For parts of stage 18 it felt like we were back in the first week of the Giro d’Italia, with Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step) and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) out in the breakaway and battling for the win.
Just like on stage eight to Arezzo, Moser didn’t come away with the win, but neither did Brambilla this time, despite it looking almost certain that one of them would be on the victory podium.
Having attacked off the front of a huge breakaway, the pair worked well together to open up a slender gap on the chasers as the break splintered.
The games of cat and mouse started on the cobbled climb that came with three kilometres to the finish, but neither rider could rid themselves of the other and so it went down to the final kilometre…
Trentin takes a memorable win
…and in the final kilometre, Brambilla’s teammate Matteo Trentin stormed through to upset Moser and take one of the most memorable wins in recent history.
On the descent from the final climb, and out of view of the television coverage, Trentin stepped on the gas. Leaving his fellow sprinters behind he essentially went hell for leather for the final two kilometres.
Brambilla spotted his teammate coming from behind and stopped working with Moser and within seconds Trentin was on Brambilla’s wheel.
He didn’t stay there for long, though, deciding instead to just continue his rapid momentum and charge for the line.
Moser had nothing to match Trentin’s pace and sidled over for second in an all-Italian top four. You have to feel for Moser, but at the same time you have to raise your cap to Trentin’s amazing ride.
Although he didn’t do his jersey up as he crossed the finish line, so his sponsors won’t be best pleased…
Always a day for the breakaway
The route profile for stage 18 was pretty benign, with just the category two climb of Pramartino to take in on the long finishing circuit around Pinerolo.
While the climb was tough, it was too far from the end to give the GC contenders any real hope of building any time gaps, so the breakaway was allowed to get away and stay away all day.
On the first time of crossing the finish line in Pinerolo, the gap to the pink jersey was something around 13 minutes. Indeed, if the circuit back to the finish line had been any shorter there’d have been a danger of the peloton being lapped.
Each and every member of the original 23-man breakaway stayed away until the end – even Genki Yamamoto, who just beat the peloton by 24 seconds – such was their lead over the bunch.
While Pramartino was the ‘big’ climb of the day, the one that caused most excitement among fans on the road side was the 400m cobbled ascent that the riders tackled twice on the finishing circuit, but barely registered on the stage profile.
Reaching gradients of 20 per cent it was steep enough to string out the group, but by no means long enough to see any real gaps forming.
All the GC contenders navigated it safely and it provided the scene for a great battle at the front of the race between Brambilla and Moser.
The finishing circuit on the whole was very good, and credit goes to the route planners, but it served more as a build up to the big mountain stages to come rather than crucial stage in its own right.
Who is Steven Kruijswijk?
Status quo in the general classification
We start stage 19 just as we finished stage 16, with Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) enjoying a three-minute lead over Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and a further 23 seconds over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Kruijswijk will have enjoyed the two relatively quiet stages of the past days, but Friday is where the racing kicks off again in earnest with some huge mountain climbs, the Cima Coppi – the highest point of the race – and a jaunt into France for a couple of days.
Find yourselves a comfy chair because this Giro d’Italia is far from over.