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Giro d'Italia 2018: Viviani beats Bennett to claim Stage 17 in sprint finish

Martin James
23 May 2018

Quick-Step Floors man takes a fourth stage win to all but seal points jersey win in tricky conditions

Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) won Stage 17 of the 2018 Giro d'Italia, beating chief rival Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain Merida) in a sprint finish in dangerously wet conditions that fortunately saw none of the riders coming down.

After a frantic day of third-week Grand Tour racing from Riva del Garda to Iseo that for long stretches looked far from destined for a bunch sprint, the sprinters eventually did have their day, with the finish made extremely tricky as the riders rode into a heavy rainstorm in the final couple of kilometres. 

It was Viviani's fourth stage win of the Giro, and cements his lead in the points classification, as he was led to the line perfectly with Bennett left out of place in the tricky conditions. 

Overall leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) looked untroubled throughout and retained his 56-second lead over Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).  

Back in the saddle

After Monday’s rest day and just 34.2km in the saddle yesterday – albeit a time-trial ridden at 50kmh – the 159 riders remaining in the 2018 Giro d’Italia set off from Riva del Garda with a rolling 155km in prospect westward to Iseo.

Non-starters were European TT champion Victor Campanaerts (Lotto-Fix All) and South African Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data), a GC hopeful coming into the Giro but more than an hour down overall after a dismal race.

It looked very much a day of two halves, with a lumpy first half followed by a flattish final 50km including a 24km loop near the finish.

Had it been the opening week of the race, this would have been a nailed-on sprint finish. But come the third week of a Grand Tour things tend to be far less defined, and even on what was the final flat stage before Sunday’s finishing procession in Rome, a bunch finish was far from guaranteed.

As we’ve seen practically every day during this Giro, the wildcard teams were well represented in the early break attempts, while Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Alessandro de Marchi (BMC Racing) were also regular agitators.

The problem was with so many teams now looking for stage wins having seen their grander GC or other classification hopes in tatters after 16 stages of hard racing, it seemed nobody was willing to let a break build up any kind of lead.

The pace was frantic, and the Mitchelton-Scott ranks of overall leader Yates were constantly in the mix, with the pink jersey looking imperious after two strong rides in the mountains on the weekend and an impressive time-trial yesterday.

On the slopes of the only classified climb of the day, the 3rd category climb to Lodrino on 71.5km, a more dangerous group came together off the front of the peloton, including both Sanchez, Di Marchi as well as Alexandre Geniez (AG2R) and Wout Poels (Team Sky) – 15th and 17th respectively overall.

Not surprisingly, the peloton looked determined to chase this one down too, especially with Poels having teammate Kenny Elissonde alongside him in the break too.

Bora-Hansgrohe and Mitchelton-Scott were doing the chasing, the former working for Bennett, looking for a third stage win and still with a chance of catching Viviani in the points competition.

Four push on

A flash downpour cooled the riders down after the summit, but not the action. Having struggled to build their lead beyond 30 seconds, it looked like the game was up for the break, but then a select four decided to have another go – Poels, Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) along with the omnipresent Sanchez and Di Marchi.

The gap duly expanded again, and Poels led them through the intermediate sprint point with 35km to go more than a minute clear of the main field. A pair of Bardiani-CSF riders were stuck in between, which meant Viviani’s sprint to lead the peloton over the line netted him just two points – a sign of how seriously he still viewed Bennett’s threat.

The pace, tired legs in the peloton and the relentlessly winding roads were giving plenty of riders trouble keeping in touch with the main field. But by now the legs of the four up front were all but shot as well, and with the peloton just 20 seconds back with 20km left to ride, clearly that was that.

Fittingly, Sanchez and Di Marchi were the last to yield after one final throw of the dice, but with Lotto NL-Jumbo coming to the front for the first time for their own sprinter Danny Van Poppel, their resistance looked to be short-lived.

Yet just when we thought the action was done bar the sprint finish, it started raining again, giving the two up front one last glimmer of hope but with just under 12km to go the pair – finally – were pulled back, and finally the sprint trains could get into position for the final charge for the line.

Even then the action wasn't done. With 9km to go Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) threw the cat among the pigeons, shooting off the front, then a couple of others joined him and the move was neutralised. Then, 5km from the line Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin) tried his luck, getting as much as 8 seconds clear, before he too was caught.