Geraint Thomas withstood an assault on his pink jersey by Primož Roglič and his Jumbo-Visma team on stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia while Italian champion Filippo Zana (Jayco-AlUla) took the stage victory from the breakaway.
Thomas and his Ineos Grenadiers team had shouldered much of the pace-setting duties throughout the day but it was Roglič who threw the first punch on the race’s penultimate climb.
The steep slopes of the Coi saw Roglič lieutenant Sepp Kuss set a pace that distanced all but Thomas and Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla). Then the Slovenian attacked but the Welshman was straight on his wheel.
Behind them João Almeida, who started the day in second place on GC fought valiantly to get back on but would be 20 seconds in arrears come the line and dropped down to third on GC.
Out front meanwhile, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), having distanced all of his breakaway companions bar Zana on the penultimate climb, tried to attack Zana as the final climb started but the Italian would not budge.
The Frenchman led out the sprint but the Italian, wearing the national champion’s jersey on home roads was just too strong and came round him in the closing metres.
Thomas said its a "solid day". He said: " I felt pretty good, pretty in control. Primož likes to go hard and then take it easy and go hard again. I gave him a few turns and I wasn't’ sure how he was feeling but in the last few km he really squeezed on."
When asked if he was comfortable with the gap which now stands at 29 seconds to Roglič and 39 to Almeida, he remained cautious: "Primož had a bad day the other day Almeida today, you’ve just got to keep it consistent."
Stage 19 on friday will provide another stiff mountain test which Ineos Grenadiers sports director Oli Cookson said the team would approach in a simillar manner to today. He said the would " stay calm ride as a unit and use our strengths when we can".
Then the GC rivals will face a final test on Saturday with a mountain time trial.
Giro d'Italia 2023 stage 18 result - Oderzo > Val di Zoldo
1. Filippo Zana (Ita) Jayco-AlUla, in 4-25-12
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at s.t.
3. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkea Samsic at 50s
4. Derek Gee (Can) Israel-Premier Tech at 1-03
5. Aurelien Paret-Peintra (Fra) AG2R Citroen at 1-24
6. Marco Frigo (Ita) Israel-Premier Tech at s.t
7. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma at 1-56
8. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers at s.t
9. João Almeida (Por) UAE Emirates at 2-17
10. Eddie Dunbar (Ire) Jayco-AlUla at 2-32
Giro d'Italia 2023 general classification after stage 18
- Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, in 76-25-51
- Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 29s
- João Almeida (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 39s
- Eddie Dunbar (Ire) Jayco-AIUla, at 3-39
- Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 3-51
- Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 4-27
- Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) at 4-43
- Andreas Leknessund (Nor) DSM, at 4-47
- Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-53
- Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers, at 5-52
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