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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 18 preview: Focus switches back to Mark Cavendish and Arnaud Démare

Five stages on from their last thrilling battle into Cuneo, sprinters Arnaud Démare and Mark Cavendish get a final chance for glory as the Giro heads for Treviso

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LAVARONE, Italy (VN) – Having spent the last four stages focused on remaining at the Giro d’Italia by finishing within the time limit on days when the GC favorites have been in the spotlight, the sprinters will get their chance to return to action on stage 18, which heads east and then south to arrive via some very flat roads in Treviso.

The last bunch sprint in Cuneo was one of this Giro’s most thrilling days, as the bunch reeled in a four-rider breakaway inside the final kilometer, where Groupama-FDJ’s Arnaud Démare took advantage of the work done by his lead-out train to grab his third victory of the race, in the process consolidating his grip on the ciclamino points jersey, a competition that he has all but wrapped up, assuming he negotiates the final mountain stages over the weekend. Victory in Treviso would enable the French sprinter to equal his haul from the 2020 corsa rosa, when he also won the points title.

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By this point in the Giro, the line-up of sprinters would usually be much diminished, but this year’s crop have mostly survived the mountains. Although Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-PremierTech) have departed the race, Démare will still face some fierce competition if the stage does finish in the sprint.

Heading his rivals is Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s Mark Cavendish, who won the stage into Balatonfüred on day three and finished third in the most recent bunch finale in Cuneo. Stage 11 winner Alberto Dainese (Team DSM) should also be in the frame. UAE Team Emirates fastman Fernando Gaviria has been frustrated so far, but will be doubly determined for a change of fortune to reward what will be the least lead-out he will get from his long-standing lieutenant Max Richeze, who will pull down the curtain on his professional career when he finishes in Verona on Sunday.

While the favorites for the overall title will be looking to make gains on three stages that follow Treviso, they can’t afford to let their guard down on the road to Treviso. This applies particularly to race leader Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and second-placed Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), who are separated by just three seconds – equal to the time bonus that Carapaz picked up on stage 11 at an intermediate sprint when the Ecuadorean and his team caught their rivals napping.

“The margins are so narrow that the intermediate sprints could potentially come into play again,” suggested Rod Ellingworth, Ineos’s deputy principal. “You’d expect Groupama to try and go for a final stage win for Démare and, obviously, Quick-Step will do the same with Cav, because it’s their last chance.

“But you can never take your eye off the ball. Richard looks super strong. He’s going well and I think he’s feeling really good and enjoying the racing as always. Tomorrow it’s more about concentration, about not relaxing so that something silly happens.”

Over at Bora, team director Enrico Gasparotto was singing a similar tune. Like Ellingworth, he refused to see the Treviso stage as an easy day. “If you’re a GC contender every day is crucial. So now we go to the back to the hotel, take it easy for a bit, cool down after today, and as the sports directors will have to think about tomorrow,” he said.