If João Almeida can survive the mountains in Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday he is likely to win the race. Photo by @OsamuSuzuki3 (Twitter)
- Stage 18 of the Giro (Thursday, October 21) may determine who wins the race
- Will Wilco Kelderman pass João Almeida on the final day of major climbing?
- Who is the best bet to win a gnarly afternoon in the mountains on Thursday?
Giro d’Italia leader João Almeida had a huge day on Wednesday. He entered Stage 17 with a 17-second lead over Wilco Kelderman and needed to survive three days in the mountains over the final week. Almeida raced to a stalemate in the mountains on Wednesday, and the course was altered moving forward to his advantage.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions in France, Stage 20 will no longer cross over the French/Italian border, which results in the route losing much of its challenge. The new 181-kilometre stage is 17 km shorter than planned, and has about 4,000 metres of easier climbing on wide fast roads as opposed to the the 5,500 difficult vertical metres on the original course.
With a flat stage, trimmed down mountain leg, and individual time trial this weekend, Thursday’s challenging mountain trek likely will decide the race. Who will emerge on Stage 18?
Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Odds
|Tao Geoghegan Hart||+250|
Odds as of Oct. 21st at DraftKings.
After being in the mix and failing to earn his first grand tour stage victory on Tuesday, Ben O’Connor was a part of a large break on Wednesday, attacked with around eight kilometres left, and held off Hermann Pernsteiner by 31 seconds for the victory. Thomas De Gendt was 70 seconds behind O’Conner in third place. On a day that seemed like GC contenders would fight for daily honors, there was no time gained or lost among the leaders, who finished together 5:11 behind the winner.
The race to wear the pink jersey in Milan continues to feel like it is down to two cyclists. Almeida holds a 17-second edge over Kelderman. Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart are just under three minutes behind and will need heroic rides on Thursday, or meltdowns by the leaders in order to win.
Stage 18 is no joke. It is 207 kilometres from Pinzolo to Lago di Cancano and has a category two climb near the start, a cat one 65 km’s in, and ends with a category one challenge. If that was all, it would be difficult but manageable. However, the Passo dello Stelvio on the Prato side is probably the toughest challenge in this year’s race. Riders climb for almost 25 kilometres with an average gradient at 7.5%. It starts somewhat reasonable, but there is no rest as the gradient climbs near the top. It is positioned three-quarters of the way through the course. There is no doubt Kelderman will be challenging Almeida on the climb. Anyone else with ambition could look to make a major move too.
Let’s look at the top Stage 19 contenders.
2021 UEFA Champions League Odds Tracker
To a large degree this stage favors Hart. While Kelderman and Almeida need to keep him from gaining a ton of ground, so long as he isn’t minutes ahead he won’t catch them in the overall standings. He proved Sunday he may be the best climber among the GC.
Hart is in good form. Not only did he win a stage on the Giro, but the 25-year-old Brit was third in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. Timing his move is a key. Go too early and he’ll force Kelderman and Almeida to react. Is he trying to win this stage or the race? The first will be much easier to accomplish.
2021 UEFA Champions League Odds Tracker
It is put up or shut up time for Kelderman. Almeida isn’t among the top climbers, or at least nobody thought he was, and Kelderman has had him in his sights for over a week. He couldn’t shake his primary rival on Wednesday and Thursday might be his last best opportunity to push by.
Kelderman doesn’t really have to worry about anyone other than Almeida. Though Hart is a serious threat to win the day, gaining three minutes is going to be difficult. Kelderman is going to go to sleep Wednesday, dream about, and wake up Thursday considering when and where to make his move and try to win the Giro. In theory he should be able to do so. In practice, he hasn’t won a race since 2015. The time is now. A decisive stage win is doable and likely would decide the race.
Jai Hindley fits in Stage 18 the same way that Hart does. He is an excellent climber, would need to be spectacular to win the race, but the daily honor is very much there for the taking. His team has some decisions to make.
Hindley won this year’s Herald Sun Tour. He is a teammate of Kelderman’s on Sunweb. How they strategically opt to use him will be interesting.
Almeida just needs to survive. A draw is a win for him. He accomplished it on Wednesday and needs the same on Thursday. That said, if the GC is all together at the end, he could try to gain a second or two, in the same way that he has on several non-mountain stages.
Though nobody expects Almeida to be the strongest in the mountains, he better stick to Kelderman. When his chief rivals goes, he has no option but to try and respond.
Don’t count out Rafal Majka either. This is what he does, and he has won four individual grand tour stages.
Majka twice has won the Mountains classification in the Tour de France. This is probably his best shot at winning a daily prize and easily could earn his way onto the podium.
Dave Friedman has covered professional and college sports for two decades. From ESPN to the Associated Press, Regional Sports Networks, Metro Networks, and many local outlets, he has written about and broadcast major and minor events throughout the country.