Eros Capecchi of Liquigas Cannondale got his team's first stage win of this year's Giro d'Italia, outsprinting local favourite Marco Pinotti and Quickstep's Kevin Seeldraeyersthe to win in the spa town of San Pelligrino Terme. The trio had slipped into a 25-strong break 55km out shortly after the race had passed through Pinotti's home town of Bergamo and had got clear on from their fellow escapees on the climb of the Passo di Ganda. Alberto Contador retains the race lead.
At just 151 kilometres, today saw the second shortest road stage of this year’s race, and the peloton ripped along at a cracking pace in the first hour’s racing, covering 53 kilometres and making it difficult for anyone to get off the front.
The pace eased slightly in the second hour, and with a little under 100km left to race the elastic holding the peloton together snapped as the large breakaway group managed to get clear.
One member of that group was Team Sky’s Russell Downing, riding his debut Grand Tour, who was one of the final six riders to stay away but got dropped on the Category 2 climb of the Ganda, which featured a maximum gradient of 15%.
The Yorkshireman sealed his best day on this year’s race by outsprinting Stage 8 winner Oscar Gatto of Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli to take eighth place.
It was a mixed day for the Downing family, however – brother Dean of Rapha-Condor-Sharp was this afternoon thrown off the Ras in Ireland for holding on to a team car – something that had given rise to controversy earlier in this year’s Giro when Mark Cavendish was alleged to have benefited from a tow up Mount Etna.
Behind the leading trio, Colnago-CSK Inox rider Marco Brambilla led the chase on the descent of the Ganda, and was joined by Paolo Tiralongo of Astana, but the gap was too big for them to bridge across as the front three watched each other carefully in the closing couple of kilometres.
Pinotti found himself in the unenviable position of being at the front of the trio entering the closing kilometre and with a technical, twisting approach to the line seemed to hold back from deploying the time trialliing skills that might have enabled him to get away.
With the line in sight, the 24-year-old Capecchi came out of Pinotti's slipstream to seal the biggest win of his professional career, having rejoined Liquigas for 2011 after spending a year with Saunier-Duval-Scott followed by two seasons at Fuji, subsequently Footon, Servetto.
The HTC-Highroad rider hasn’t seen his last chance of a stage win in this year’s race disappear – on Sunday, Pinotti, the Italian national time trial champion, will be among the favourites to win the closing individual time trial in Milan, as he did in 2008, the last time the Giro finished with a race against the clock in the Lombard capital.
Between now and then there are two big mountain stages to come. Tomorrow’s 209-kilometre Stage 19 features a climb of the Mottarone ahead of a summit finish on the Macugnaga, but that’s likely to seem like a training ride compared to Saturday’s Stage 20, which sees the riders tackle the ascent of the Colle delle Finestre then another uphill finish to Sestriere.
Giro d’Italia Stage 18 result 1 CAPECCHI Eros Liquigas-Cannondale 3:20:38 2 PINOTTI Marco HTC-Highroad 0:00 3 SEELDRAYERS Kevin Quickstep 0:00 4 BRAMBILLA Gianluca Colnago-CSF Inox 1:20 5 TIRALONGO Paolo Astana 1:20 6 CATALDO Dario Quickstep 2:49 7 LOSADA Alberto Katusha 3:46 8 DOWNING Russell Team Sky 4:34 9 GATTO Oscar Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli 4:34 10 BAKELANDTS Jan Omega Pharma-Lotto 4:34 11 TANKINK Bram Rabobank 4:34 12 HERNANDEZ Jesus Saxo Bank-SunGard 4:37 13 PASAMONTES Luis Movistar 4:37 14 DEIGNAN Philip RadioShack 4:37 15 CARRARA Matteo Vacansoleil-DCM 4:37 16 NAVARRO Daniel Saxo Bank-SunGard 4:37 17 KOZONTCHUK Dmitry Geox-TMC 4:37 18 SASTRE Carlos Geox-TMC 4:40 19 KRIVTSOV Yuriy AG2R 6:04 20 BLANCO David Geox-TMC 6:04 Giro d’Italia Overall Standings after Stage 18 1 CONTADOR Alberto Saxo Bank-SunGard 68:18:27 2 SCARPONI Michele Lampre-ISD 4:58 3 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale 5:45 4 GADRET John AG2R 7:35 5 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC-Highroad 9:12 6 RUJANO Jose Androni Giocattoli 9:18 7 NIEVE Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi 9:22 8 MENCHOV Denis Geox-TMC 9:38 9 KREUZIGER Roman Astana 9:47 10 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha 10:25
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.