Giro d'Italia stage 18 results: Tim Merlier wins sprint finish ahead of Jonathan Milan

Belgian grabs his second stage victory of the race in chaotic and entertaining finale in Padova

Clock15:06, Thursday 23rd May 2024
Tim Merlier celebrates victory on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia

© Getty Images

Tim Merlier celebrates victory on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia

Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) claimed his second stage victory of the 2024 Giro d’Italia, hitting back at three-time stage winner Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) in a sprint finish on stage 18.

Lidl-Trek's lead-out led the way through the final right-hand bend with 500 metres to go, but there was one big problem: Milan wasn't aboard the train.

They soon saw that and sat up, opening the door for a chaotic sprint in which a few lesser-heralded names jumped at the opportunity to open up from range. Merlier was only a couple of places further forward than Milan, with both riders having to come from far back and move past a number of other riders.

Merlier, who won the opening sprint of the Giro on stage 3, was on the wheel of Stanislaw Aniolkowski (Cofidis) and had to take a wide berth to the right to move around the Pole. Meanwhile, Milan went to the left, finding a path in between Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Alberto Dainese (Tudor Pro Cycling).

The Giro's top two sprinters met in the middle, threw their bikes, and Merlier edged it by half a wheel, with third place going to Groves.

“The haters will be disappointed," Merlier snapped in reference to this being the first time he has won two stages in a single Grand Tour, and the first time he has won one later than the third day.

"We knew the points that were important today and we were always in good position - not in the perfect line but we managed to be in a good position. I was surprised. The last kilometre was really fast with two corners and I was surprised we were already in the last 500-600 metres. When I found my moment, I started my sprint. I needed to go a bit around but in the end I made it."

There were no changes to the general classification, with race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and the rest of the overall contenders finishing safely in the peloton on what was a brief respite from the mountainous final week.

A straightforward and net-downhill stage

It was raining at the start in Fiera di Primiero, which added some degree of difficulty to what would be one of the most straight-forward stages of the entire Giro, running net-downhill away from the mountains and down to Padova.

After a fast downhill start, there was nevertheless one categorised climb at Lamon inside the opening 20km, measuring 3.4km at 5.8%. That proved to be the launchpad for the day’s breakaway to form.

Four riders went up the road, with the Polti-Kometa duo of Andrea Pietrobon and Mirco Maestri joined by Filippo Fiorelli of (VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) and a WorldTour representative in Mikkel Honoré (EF Education-EasyPost).

By the top of the climb, they’d opened a lead of 90 seconds as Lidl-Trek came to the front of the peloton. However, despite the relatively unthreatening nature of the move, they were kept on a cruelly short leash, with the quartet carving out a maximum advantage of just 2:30.

The gap fluctuated throughout, amid injections of pace in the peloton, where Soudal Quick-Step and Tudor Pro Cycling chipped in with Lidl-Trek on the pace-making front.

While Maestri had led the break over the climb, it was Pietrobon who did so at at the intermediate sprint in Valdobbiadene with 110km to go, and Fiorelli at the Intergiro sprint in Villorba with 68km to go. The latter two riders duly extended their leads in those respective classifications.

The gap then started to trend downwards, to the point where riders started to try and jump across the gap. Edoardo Affini (Visma-Lease a Bike) was the one rider to manage it, ripping clear with a huge delivery of power. The peloton threatened to split as panicked reactions came, with Lidl-Trek chasing particularly hard in the early phases of Affini’s attack.

By the time he made it across with 55km to go, however, order had been restored and the same leading teams set about controlling the gap with a bit more calm.

Fiorelli won the final intermediate sprint in Martellago but the breakaway were kept well under control as the race headed into the final 30km. In fact, the break were effectively brought back but allowed to dangle out front for several kilometres before finally being reabsorbed with 10km to go.

The sprint finish

From there, it was all about the lead-out trains and the battle to keep GC riders safe. Ineos Grenadiers suffered a mechanical for Thymen Arensman but were soon back on the front to keep Geraint Thomas safe, with Ben Swift leading Geraint Thomas into the final 5km until the safety net of the 3km-to-go banner.

Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) then hit the front, even if his teammates were further back behind groups from FDJ and Lidl-Trek. FDJ took it up before Tudor took over under the 2km banner, managing to hold the front through a big left-hand bend with a kilometre to go.

Lidl-Trek took over through the next pinch point and then through the sweeping right-hander with 500 metres to go, but Simone Consonni looked over his shoulder, saw Milan was not in tow, and called the lead-out off. Milan’s two lead-out man completely stepped off the gas, leaving the road wide open in the final 400 metres. Hugo Hofstetter (Alpecin-Deceuninck) opened it up before fading badly, while Groves, Dainese, and Aniolkowski all surely sensed glory even if it meant going from range.

But the Giro’s top two sprinters roared back into the equation and scrapped it out among themselves, with Merlier hitting back to make it 2-3 in terms of stage wins, while the rest of the sprinters continue to be frozen out.

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

Race Results

1

be flag

MERLIER Tim

Soudal Quick-Step

3H 45' 44"

2

it flag

MILAN Jonathan

Lidl-Trek

"

3

au flag

GROVES Kaden

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

4

it flag

DAINESE Alberto

Tudor Pro Cycling Team

"

5

pl flag

ANIOLKOWSKI Stanislaw

Cofidis

"

6

co flag

GAVIRIA Fernando

Movistar Team

"

7

ee flag

MIHKELS Madis

Intermarché-Wanty

"

8

au flag

EWAN Caleb

Team Jayco-AlUla

"

9

it flag

BALLERINI Davide

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

10

co flag

MOLANO Sebastian

UAE Team Emirates

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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