Dries De Bondt wins Stage 18 of Giro D’Italia as breakaway denies sprinters

Richard Carapaz leads Jai Hindley by just three seconds with three stages remaining

<p> Dries De Bondt celebrates after crossing the finish line of the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia</p>

Dries De Bondt celebrates after crossing the finish line of the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia

Dries De Bondt won stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia as a four-man breakaway stole away the final opportunity for Mark Cavendish and the rest of the sprinters.

The predominantly flat 156km run from Borgo Valsugana to Treviso should have been one for the quick men, and the last bunch sprint of this Giro, but the sprint squads got their sums wrong as the break stayed clear, with De Bondt beating Edoardo Affini, Magnus Cort and Davide Gabburo to the line.

Alberto Dainese brought home the sprinters 14 seconds later, with Cavendish rolling home in eighth place, having been unable to add to his stage three win in this race.

The sprint finish meant no change at the top of the general classification, in which Richard Carapaz leads Jai Hindley by just three seconds with three stages remaining.

Hindley was distanced in the finale having suffered a mechanical, rolling in a minute down, but as the incident happened in the final three kilometres he did not lose time overall.

However, Joao Almeida, who had dropped from third to fourth on Wednesday’s stage to Lavarone, did not start on Thursday having tested positive for Covid-19 overnight. The rest of the UAE Team Emirates squad and staff returned negative tests.

The peloton appeared to have the breakaway under control for the bulk of the stage, but after the front four upped the pace on the short but sharp climb of the Muro di Ca del Poggio around 50km from the finish, they built a gap the peloton failed to close.

Asked how they held off the peloton, De Bondt said “I think it’s a ‘we’ question, not an ‘I’ question. It was a collaboration until the last kilometre. We bought some time to speculate but we didn’t speculate.

“The collaboration from the four of us was magnificent. Nobody skipped a turn. It was full, full, full.

“Everyone thought it would be a sprint, that it was written in the stars, but we made a plan, the four of us, and we stuck to it.”

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