Merlier sprints to second victory on stage 18 of Giro, Pogacar maintains considerable lead

PADUA, Italy (AP) — Belgian rider Tim Merlier won a chaotic bunch sprint for his second victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia as Tadej Pogacar maintained his considerable lead with three days remaining.

Merlier timed his last effort precisely to beat Jonathan Milan by less than half a wheel at the end of the 18th stage, a mainly flat, 178-kilometer (111-mile) route from Fiera di Primiero to Padua that offered some respite after two brutal days in the high mountains.

Both were far back when the sprint was launched by Alberto Dainese but Merlier managed to find a gap on the right while Milan powered down the middle.

However, Milan could only shake his head wryly as he looked to his right to see Merlier raise his arms in celebration. Kaden Groves was third.

“We were always in good position, not a perfect line but we managed to be in a good position,” Merlier said. “I was a bit surprised, the last kilometer was really fast with the two corners, and I was surprised even the last 600 or 500 meters.

“Then I found my moment. I started my sprint but I need to go a bit around. But in the end I make it.”

Merlier, who rides for Soudal–Quick-Step, also won the third leg this year to add to his stage victory in the 2021 Giro.

He was narrowly beaten on the 11th stage by Milan, who also won the fourth and 13th legs.

“It would be nice to have 3-3 but we will see,” Merlier said, with the final sprint day in Rome to come. “I say before Giro I want to win more than one stage and now I have the second, so my Giro is good.”

Pogacar, a two-time Tour de France champion, remained seven minutes, 42 seconds ahead of Daniel Martinez with third-place Geraint Thomas 8:04 behind the Slovenian star.

Friday’s 19th stage is an undulating stage with three categorized climbs in the final 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the 157-kilometer (98-mile) route from Mortegliano to Sappada.

The Giro ends in Rome on Sunday.


AP cycling:

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