Belgian Dries De Bondt won stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday as a quartet of escapees defied a frantic bid from the sprinters to reel them in over the final kilometre.
The final flat stage on this 21-day slog around Italy was supposed to be the last chance for sprinters such as Arnaud Demare and Mark Cavendish, but in a rare event the mass bunch sprint was denied by the escape group.
“It’s a we question, not an I question. It was a collaboration (working together) until the last kilometre,” De Bondt said.
“Everyone said Cavendish or Démare or Dainese was going to win – it was written in the stars.
“But there was no moment of doubt, nobody skipped one turn,” he said of the escape.
The powerfully-built 30-year-old De Bondt outsprinted Jumbo’s Edoardo Affini for a photo finish as Magnus Cort of EF was third and Davide Bardiani of CSF fourth after they had worked together over two laps of a tight downtown circuit at Treviso.
The sprint pack started that 20km slog with a deficit of only 2 minutes, and would have caught the quartet on a less technically demanding circuit.
Frenchman Demare of FDJ still leads in the sprint points rankings with a tally of 254 while the 37-year-old Cavendish is second on 132.
Ecuadorian former Giro winner Richard Carapaz of Ineos maintains his 03sec lead in the overall standings on Australian Jai Hindley.
Joao Almeida’s hopes of finishing on the podium ended overnight as he withdrew due to testing positive for Covid-19 when he was just 49 sec off third-placed Mikel Landa.