No fewer than 231 kilometers were on the riders’ menu on Thursday towards Stradella in stage 18 of the Giro. For the tenth time since the start of the race, the breakaway proved successful. However, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team did not manage to enter it this time after a big fight at the start of the stage. After more than five hours of racing, Alberto Bettiol got the win before the last two mountain stages of the event.
More than any other one in this 2021 Giro, the breakaway of the stage 18 was on everyone’s agenda. Despite quite a long distance to cover between Rovereto and Stradella (231 kilometers), almost all the riders had the will to go up front on Thursday. As a consequence, the first hour of racing proved very fast and made of relentless attacks and counterattacks. After about thirty kilometers, twenty-three riders managed to create a gap but the peloton did not sit up immediately. Several teams missed the right move, including Groupama-FDJ, and therefore made numerous attempts to bridge across. Unsuccessfully. After fifty kilometers of hard racing, the peloton stopped chasing and the breakaway was able to go for the stage win, as expected.
“We cannot be satisfied”, Philippe Mauduit
“We missed it and it’s a shame because we knew the break would make it,” said Philippe Mauduit. “We don’t have to make excuses, the guys are just really tired. We obviously wanted to be in front, and we tried to get in the moves, but some had the means to do it and others less. Antoine and Romain were very active and we can’t reproach anything. Of course it’s a failure, and we cannot be satisfied with our performance today. The guys are just at the end of their rope, like 85% of the peloton. Everyone is exhausted, but in such cases, the difference is made with will and courage. We probably lacked a bit of that today.” The day’s breakaway then fought for victory in the four hills of the final, where Alberto Bettiol proved to be the strongest to take victory on home soil. The bunch finished over twenty minutes later with all the Groupama-FDJ’s riders in it.
“As soon as the break went, the only thing we could do was to stay quietly in the bunch and save as much energy as possible for the next two stages, which will still be extremely difficult,” said Philippe. Attila Valter also gained one place in the general classification on Thursday following the abandon of Giulio Ciccone. The Hungarian finds himself fifteenth overall with three stages still to go. Tomorrow, the mountain comes back with a summit finish in Alpe di Mera (9.6 km at 9%). “It’s going to be a long fight at the start tomorrow, and we don’t have the means to follow all the moves,” said Philippe. “We will have to be a bit clever, smarter, and it will be difficult anyway. But there are only two stages left, so we have to give it a go”.