Matteo Trentin wins Giro d’Italia stage 18 after thrilling finish
The 27-year-old became the 12th Etixx – Quick-Step rider to notch a victory this season.
With around 700 meters to go of Giro d'Italia stage 18, the leading duo of Gianluca Brambilla and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) cruised on the streets of Pinerolo. Gianluca, already victorious at this edition, was second wheel, but even though the finish line was getting closer, he kept looking over his shoulder. The reason for that became clear for everybody in just a couple of seconds, as Matteo Trentin came hard from behind and caught them, before passing the two and taking the win, his first ever on Italian soil.
Up until that point, the longest stage of the Giro d'Italia (244 kilometers) saw a massive break get clear after 16 kilometers from the start, no less than 24 riders booking a place in the group that forged a hefty advantage of 14 minutes before the sole categorized climb of the day, Pramartino (4.3 kilometers, average gradient of 10.9%). There, Matteo did a strong pull at the front before his teammate launched an inspired attack to which only Moreno Moser had a response. Together, the two stayed clear on the descent and on the final climb of the stage, the sharp and cobbled San Maurizio (20% maximum slope), where Moser tried to distance Gianluca, but without any luck.
In the final kilometer, it looked like the stage win will be played in a two-man sprint, but the resilience Matteo Trentin showed, combined with the fact that Gianluca didn't pull anymore, sensing his teammate – who in the meantime attacked from the chasing group – had a chance to come back, led to a different outcome. As soon as he made the junction, the 27-year-old Italian, who's riding for Etixx – Quick-Step since turning pro, opened his sprint and brought the team's fourth victory at the 99th edition of the Giro d'Italia, following the two of Marcel Kittel in the Netherlands and the one of Gianluca Brambilla – who on Thursday finished third – in Arezzo.
After claiming his maiden win in Italy, Matteo sat down to talk about his special day and those crucial final kilometers, which saw him return to the front when nobody else was expecting it anymore: "After helping Brambi on Pramartino, I just rode my own tempo, so I could survive and recover until the top. Then, on the downhill, I rode full gas and caught Rovny, Arndt and Modolo. Having Gianluca at the front, the pressure was on them, so I stayed at the back of the group and recovered. On the San Maurizio ascent, I launched my attack, made the catch with around 350 meters to go and continued with my acceleration, which brought me this beautiful triumph."
At the Corsa Rosa, Matteo's sharing the room with Gianluca, and for them it was the second successful breakaway in which they both booked a place, after the one in stage 8, when Brambilla won following a huge work of Trentin. On Thursday, the former maglia rosa returned the favour and his countryman seized the day:
This victory comes after a fantastic teamwork and a flawless tactic.
"We proved once again how great we get along together and how strong we are. For me, to get my first Italian win at the Giro, it's something really unbelievable, I couldn't have asked for more. This victory is for my family, who supports me all the time, and for the whole team. Now we have four stage victories, and what's great is that the race is still not over, so who knows what else can happen".
The favourites completed the stage more than 13 minutes behind, but not before Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked on the last ascent, prompting the response of the other riders. Seventh in the overall standings, white jersey Bob Jungels was there and stayed with the best, finishing the day safely and confident ahead of Friday's big mountain stage: "I'm really happy that the team won again. This Giro was really great for us. Concerning me, I felt good and I am satisfied with my performance, as I was there with the best guys. Tomorrow it will be a different stage, shorter, colder, at altitude and hard right from the beginning. We'll see how it unfolds, but I hope to be strong again."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele