Tim Merlier denies Jonathan Milan in thrilling sprint on stage 18 of Giro d'Italia

Tim Merlier has sprinted to victory on stage 18 of the 2024 Giro d'Italia, taking his second win of the race in a thrilling finale to the day, taking his latest ever win at a Grand Tour.

Although on paper a stage for the sprinters, as always with such parcours coming so late in a Grand Tour, the breakaway hopefuls can always feel like they have a chance. Attempting to try their luck in such a move on this occasion, was a four-man group of Mikkel Honore (EF Education-EasyPost), Filippo Fiorelli (VF Group - Bardiani CSF - Faizanè) plus Team Polti - Kometa duo, Mirco Maestri and Andrea Pietrobon.

Sadly for the attackers, the peloton were not in a giving mood. A trio of sprinter's teams sent a rider to the front to control things and under the watchful eye of Lidl-Trek (team of Jonathan Milan), Soudal - Quick-Step (team of Tim Merlier) and Tudor Pro Cycling Team (team of Alberto Dainese), the gap between the peloton and breakaway was kept under two minutes.

The problem for those teams was, with the time gap so small, they were encouraging more attacks from the peloton. It was one such attack, from Edoardo Affini with just under 60km to go, saw the leading quartet grow to a quintet. Despite the reinforcement of the Team Visma | Lease a Bike rider, the writing was on the wall for the breakaway though and with the gap holding at under 20 seconds, you felt the catch could be completed at any moment.

With 15km to go though, the leaders were still dangling around 15 seconds ahead of the bunch and working well together to keep hold of their narrow advantage. Finally though, with just over 10 kilometres to go, the day was finally over for the attackers as the focus completely turned towards preparing for the bunch sprint finale. Just over 8km to go however, there was an untimely issue for Thymen Arensman. After a quick bike change however, the man who started the day 6th overall was able to get back to the safety of the peloton.

After the GC men were through the hallowed 3km banner without any further incident though, the sprint teams began to take full control. Heading into the final kilometre it was the Tudor Pro Cycling Team on the front. With Jonathan Milan somewhat blocked, Alberto Dainese opened the sprint but in a thrillingly close finale, both Dainese and a resurgent Milan were denied by Soudal - Quick-Step's Tim Merlier.

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