PREVIEW | Giro d'Italia 2024 stage 18 - Can Jonathan Milan win again? Or will the breakaway win once again on flat day

Almost every year, the mid-week flat stage on the final third of the Giro d'Italia is won by a breakaway rider. So much so that it has become a tradition. We preview stage 18, where it is possible for the breakaway to succeed but if not, Jonathan Milan will be the main favourite to win.

As tradition, the final week features a pan-flat day between the mountains. This time around it takes place in the Veneto region between Fiera di Primiero and Padova. It's 166 kilometers will suit the sprinters, but breakaways have often succeeded on this kind of day...

PREVIEW | Giro d'Italia 2024 stage 18 - Can Jonathan Milan win again? Or will the breakaway win once again on flat day
Stage 18: Fiera di Primiero - Padova, 166 kilometers

A very fast day awaits the riders, but it will be warmly welcomes after so many difficulties in the past days. Here we find the opposite, four hours of racing on flat roads. Pan-flat final half of the day means the sprinters will have little to worry about in terms of being put into difficulties.

If the peloton does manage to bring it back to a sprint, they will find a rather technical one. In Padova, the riders find a fast left-hander with 900 meters to go, a roundabout and then another fast corner with just under 500 meters to go. Leadouts will be crucial here, experience too. A fast and flat sprint should decide the winner of the day.

PREVIEW | Giro d'Italia 2024 stage 18 - Can Jonathan Milan win again? Or will the breakaway win once again on flat day
PREVIEW | Giro d'Italia 2024 stage 18 - Can Jonathan Milan win again? Or will the breakaway win once again on flat day

The Weather

PREVIEW | Giro d'Italia 2024 stage 18 - Can Jonathan Milan win again? Or will the breakaway win once again on flat day
Map Giro d'italia 2024 stage 18

No wind on the forecast but we can expect rain. Early on specially, the peloton will get wet and this will make the stage harder - both for everyone, but also harder to control. A benefit for those dreaming of a breakaway win.

The Favourites

Jonathan Milan - Three stage wins and counting. The leader of Lidl-Trek has consolidated himself as the strongest sprinter in the race without a question and has the Maglia Ciclamino in his hands. The Italian is where he wants to be; I throw the same question as with Pogacar in the mountains: Will he try to go for another one? I would say it's less likely that he wins in comparison to Pogacar in previous days, but Trek do stand a good chance. They also still have their full team and are motivated. However, I would not be surprised if he tries to repay the favour and give freedom to Simone Consonni, Edward Theuns and Jasper Stuyven to chase a win of their own from a breakaway. This would also diminish the risk of him losing his jersey.

Sprint victory - If the stage does come down to a sprint, it is unlikely that many will stand a chance to win just because Milan will be hard to beat in any case. Tim Merlier and Kaden Groves certainly do stand a chance, and I do believe both riders' teams will still fully focus on a sprint on this day as it is their best chance of winning - and in Groves' case, he does not yet have a win to his name. Although very difficult, the likes of Caleb Ewan, Juan Sebastián Molano and Stanislaw Aniolkowski have also came close on a few occasions and must be considered.

In case of a sprint deciding the outcome of the stage we have a few outsiders who can fight for a strong result such as Alberto Dainese who is used to yearly success in the race but has not yet found it this time around; Fernando Gaviria, Laurence Pithie, Tobias Lund Andresen, Giovanni Lonardi, Madis Mihkels, Hugo Hofstetter, Enrico Zanoncello and (although I see him more aiming for a breakaway) Davide Ballerini.

But now... The breakaway. Pan-flat stage, final week of a stage race where sprinter teams are fatigued, lots of riders no longer have a sprinter to support and in all honesty, lots of riders who absolutely should focus on their own chances instead of helping their sprinters' minor chances of a result. It's a day where out of the last five occasions, four were won by the breakaway. The Giro follows a classic formula, and in the numbers' game, this is the most likely possibility.

But who can do it? Dozens of riders, realistically, but we favour the heavyweight riders, the rouleurs and classics specialists - with a bonus if they have a good sprint. Filippo Ganna, Roel van Sintmaartensdijk, Lorenzo Milesi, Albert Torres, Josef Cerny, Max Walscheid, Edoardo Affini, Tim van Dijke and Matteo Trentin are the main cards in my opinion. I do assume all these riders will give it a shot early on and a few will be part of the front group. Raw power is what matters here, not weight, and in this field we have got a few absolute machines still remaining in the field.

But I would also add - even if with a smaller chance - Magnus Sheffield, Jonas Koch, Andrea Vendrame, Andrea Piccolo, Mirco Maestri, Andrea Pietrobon, Jan Tratnik, Filippo Fiorelli, Andrea Pasqualon and Michael Valgren. They can all realistically take the win, I don't rate them as high but in the right group and with the right timing they may go out with a bang. But of course, this is hard to predict, and in a stage like this it is also hard to know who will be in the front group as it is often a matter of luck.

Prediction Giro d'italia 2024 stage 18:

*** Jonathan Milan
** Kaden Groves, Filippo Ganna, Tim van Dijke, Davide Ballerini
* Tim Merlier, Caleb Ewan, Stanislaw Aniolkowski, Juan Sebastián Molano, Andrea Piccolo, Max Walscheid, Edoardo Affini, Matteo Trentin, Jasper Stuyven, Edward Theuns

Pick: Tim van Dijke

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