Sam Bennett of BORA-Hansgrohe has his second stage win of the 2018 Giro d’Italia. The Irishman took the stage win ahead of Danny van Poppel of LottoNL-Jumbo and Niccolo Bonifazio of Bahrain Merida; on a day where the GC had a relatively calm day on the bike. Bennett’s win also closed the gap in the points classification between himself and Elia Viviani.
Aside from a short rise with 7.4km remaining the 214km separating Osimo and Imola were primed for the sprinters. That climb at 7.4km to go would be interesting, not just with regards to seeing who would attack, but also to seeing which of the teams would force the chase and whether they’d have enough firepower to bring back any attackers. The sprinters’ teams would certainly have to be on their toes.
There is always something at the giro. Tricky little final with the wind and rain in the final, but another page ripped out of the race book 👌
— SamBewley (@SamBewley) May 17, 2018
Unlike yesterday, the break of the day established very quickly with Wilier Triestina’s Eugert Zhupa and Jacopo Mosca joined by Marco Frapporti of Androni-Giocattoli-Sidermec and the Bardiani CSF combination of Manuel Senni and Mirco Maestri. The break had the peloton’s blessing and duly established a healthy lead of 3.41mins inside the first 50km of racing. At the front of the race Mitchelton-Scott assumed their customary position with Sam Bewley never far from the front; although in the early stages it was the teams of EF Education First-Drapac, Quick-Step Floors and BORA-Hansgrohe who actually led the peloton.
Although there was plenty of riding left to do in the stage, it was surprising that the break’s lead started dropping early, with the quintet having their advantage cut to less than 3 minutes very early on. Steadily, though, the gap yoyo-ed back out once again but never really broke through the 3.40min gap.
With 100km remaining, and just after the feed zone, the five leaders had their advantage back up toward that 3.40min lead. There appeared no intent for a severing of the breakaway relationship that had formed between the five riders, who were working well together; while behind them the peloton were pretty strung out in pursuit, but at this stage also not looking too concerned with making serious inroads. The ever present figure of Sam Bewley was just a few riders back in the peloton, leading the maglia rosa of Simon Yates.
At less than 90km to go the heavens opened on the riders, with rain jackets a plenty being donned from the main field, although no such luxury was enjoyed by the breakaway who continued to press on. Thankfully, although the roads became rather slick, there were no big descents to tackle or many majorly technical sections of road; which gave a little confidence that no major crashes might occur.
The rain wasn’t done yet though, and another deluge hit the race as they passed through Faenza, with the break’s lead at 1.55mins. BORA-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step Floors had been constants at the front throughout, and they really pushed the tempo with just under 30km to go; bringing the advantage of the break down to less than a minute. What seemed to have triggered the lift in tempo was a big split that had occurred that served to benefit both the GC and sprinters. Richard Carapaz of Movistar had been caught out on the wrong side of the split, but then so too had Elia Viviani in a group further back.
BORA-Hansgrohe smelled an opportunity and duly hit the front with great power, not so much out of a desire to bring the break back quickly, but out of a desire to distance Viviani and potentially threaten the Italian’s points classification lead; which was for a time looking comfortable.
Knowing that their days were numbered at the front of the race, Jacopo Mosca and Mirco Maestri distanced the rest of the break to prolong their stay out front. Behind them the break were quickly swallowed up as Team Sunweb joined the party on the front of the peloton. The advantage for the peloton over Carapaz, who was in a group alongside Bahrain Merida’s Domenico Pozzovivo, was at a slender but significant 24 seconds with 23km remaining; and Sam Bewley was also doing his part in keeping the pace high for Simon Yates.
The remnants of the break were finally caught with 21km remaining just as Carapaz and Pozzovivo rejoined the peloton. Attacks weren’t over yet though, and Tim Wellens decided that with 20km to go it was time to attack for Lotto Fix All. He led the way through the finish line for one more lap of the finishing circuit and held 14 seconds in hand with 15km to go. Alarmingly for Quick-Step Floors though, their stage winning prospects were looking grim as Elia Viviani found himself being tossed out the back of the bunch on the wind-affected motor racing circuit which the field were now tackling.
With 12km to go EF Education First-Drapac had closed the advantage to Wellens to 12 seconds, but Wellens crucially had a lead on the lower slopes of the first rise with 10km to go. It proved not to be enough for Wellens though, who found the peloton just applying too much pressure. Other riders were enthusiastic about the chances of attacking though, with Sergio Henao of Team Sky among those to push the tempo.
Next to attack was Rohan Dennis of BMC Racing, who went up the road with Richard Carapaz in pursuit. That triggered a chase from the maglia rosa himself as Yates danced across the gap alongside George Bennett who’d had a quiet day until now for LottoNL-Jumbo. The aggression at the front of the race was splintering the main field, but with the climb containing enough in the way of lulls it was just possible that much of the peloton would come back together again.
With 8km remaining Diego Ulissi of UAE Team Emirates launched another attack, but was quickly pursued by AG2R La Mondiale’s Alexandre Geniez; but Ulissi had gained a gap and he piled on the pace in a bid to stay clear. As the summit of the climb approached Carlos Betancur of Movistar bridged across the gap and the two riders looked at causing an upset. At 7km to go the advantage was just 7 seconds.
That lead dropped to 5 seconds with 5km to go, but they were then joined by Maciej Mohoric of Bahrain Merida who gave them a bit more impetus on the front; too much for Ulissi who dropped back. Mohoric and Betancur continued to lead with just 4 seconds in hand with 3km to go; as BORA-Hansgrohe piled on the pace to get back on board with the leaders and set up a sprint. At 2km to go EF Education First-Drapac joined forces with BORA-Hansgrohe, with other teams moving forward in what was set to be a messy finale.
With 1km to go the gap was holding at just a small handful of seconds, and Mohoric and Betancur were staring at the potential for a stage win. But then with 350m remaining Sam Bennett opened up his sprint. The Irishman launched from along way off, and crossed the gap single handedly to the leaders. It looked like he’d gone far too early, but the Irishman kept the pace up to come through and comfortably take the win, with Danny van Poppel closing, but not quite quickly enough.
George Bennett and Tom Scully succeeded in staying with the peloton in the blustery stage, and crossed the line in the main field; with Sam Bewley a little way behind after successfully protecting Simon Yates’ lead in the maglia rosa.