Very little happens in the early stages, but eventually it’s Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Oliver Kaisen and Colnago CSF-Inox’s Alan Marangoni who decide to take off into the great grey yonder. The bunch thinks: “Great, let them go …” The gap is pegged though, never getting much beyond 2’ 40”.
79kms to go. Kaisen and Marangoni are picking their way gingerly through another beautiful but treacherously surfaced town square at Riva del Garda. The rain is coming down quite hard, so it’s not exactly perfect preparations for the next two agonising stages.
The day’s lucky duo: Kaisen and Marangoni.
There’s a bit of shelter for the riders though as they nip in and out of the roadside tunnels which allow the roads to skirt Lake Garda.
HTC-Columbia and Team Sky both have sprinters hanging on in the race – Andrй Greipel and Greg Henderson – who will be looking for one last chance to snare a win. Unless they pull off some sort of miracle, of course, over the Mortirolo or the Gavia then today is the final opportunity for the 2010 Giro.
The car headlights are bouncing off the soaking tarmac as Kaisen tows Marangoni along the lakeside. There’s a lot of punctures today; the rain washing stones and debris onto the road surface. Michael Schar paces his ‘capo’ Cadel Evans back to the bunch after a puncture, then immediately gets one himself. It’s going to be another long tough day for the mechanics.
HTC and Sky did a lot of work to kill the break.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia) are tapping out the rhythm on the head of the bunch. 55 kms to go and things are calm. Then the sun comes out, the roads dry up and there’s a flurry of riders grabbing rain jackets from team-mates before dropping back to the cars.
17 clicks to go: it’s Team Sky still at the head of the peloton. They’ve shaved the gap down to 1’ 20”. Marangoni is waaay smaller than Kaisen and he’s drafting super close to the big Belgian’s rear wheel. Kaisen is definitely doing the bulk of the work as they roll through 15kms to race.
10kms to go, and it’s obvious that this is really hurting Kaisen now. He’s starting to pedal less fluidly. By contrast, HTC-Columbia and Team Sky have flattened out over their bikes and the speed ramps right up. The gap just plunges with every pedal revolution in the bunch … they are FLYING! Vincente Reynes (HTC-Columbia) ‘explodes’ and drifts out of the way, job done at the front.
Ah, water, lovely.
Now it’s Rabobank, Liquigas and Ag2r hitting the front of the peloton. Five kilometers left – the leading pair’s advantage is now 18”.
Kaisen runs out of gas with 3.6kms left, leaving Marangoni alone versus the whole field. Rabobank are a mass of orange, working for Graeme Brown.
Two to go and Marangoni is forced to surrender. Wiggins and Hayman barrel it under the red kite for Team Sky, full speed. There’s bumping and barging, Brown and Pozzato rub shoulders …
The sprint unleashes and it’s Greipel emerging out of the mass of bodies to take a clear win, ahead of Julian Dean and Tiziano Dall’Antonio. Greg Henderson makes it two Kiwis in the top four – that can’t have happened to often in a Grand Tour.
Greipel finally boots open the doors of the Last Chance Saloon and grabs his win. Anyone want to lay odds on him being the most relieved man at the Giro tonight?
Arroyo takes the Maglia Rosa into the final three days.
No changes overall today, but keep it Pez for tomorrow’s horror show on the road to Aprica!
Giro d’ Italia Stage 18 Result, Levico Terme – Brescia156kms
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia 3hrs 14’ 58”
2 Julian Dean (NZ) Garmin-Transitions
3 Tiziano Dall’Antonio (Ita) Liquigas
4 Gregory Henderson (NZ) Team Sky
5 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini
6 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank all same time
Giro d’ Italia Overall After Stage 18
1 David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d’ Epargne
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas + 2’ 27”
3 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Saxo Bank + 2’ 44”
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team + 3’ 09”
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team + 4’ 41”
6 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas + 4’ 53”
7 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana + 5’ 12”
8 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli + 5’ 24”
9 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini + 9’ 21”
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Liquigas + 9’ 32”