Confirmation that Contador has increased his lead on Landa to 5:15 on GC, with Aru now trailing the Spaniard by 6:05.
Melide - Verbania
Giro d'Italia - 28 May 2015
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Steven Kruijswijk, the blue jersey from LottoNL-Jumbo, leads the main pack across the line just over a minute behind Contador, who will we well over five minutes ahead on GC tonight.
Alberto Contador crosses the finish line in Ryder Hesjedal's wheel 6:06 down on the stage winner. But that's not the gap that matters - it's how long it will take for the Landa-Aru group to now come home...
Contador and Hesjedal are driving to the finish - and have dropped Villella. They're trying to make as big inroads over the main pack as possible - Contador for the maglia rosa and Hesjedal for his top ten aspirations.
Chad Haga (Giant Alpecin) crosses the line three minutes down. He was in that initial break before being distanced on Monte Ologno. Soon we'll have Contador coming home...
Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) leads the chasing group over the line another 10 seconds back.
Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani-CSF) crosses the line for second place 47 seconds down.
The Belgian milks it on the home straight - and so he might. It's Philippe Gilbert's second win in a week for BMC.
Under he goes. This will be Gilbert's 58th professional win, apparently.
Gilbert is already pumping his fist and pointing back to the BMC team car. He's got over a last rise and now approaches the one-to-go banner...
The chasers are all over the road as they continue the chase - but it will all be in vain... Bongiorno is the latest to solo clear - but surely too much, too late.
The Landa-Aru gap has cut the deficit to 1:15 on Contador.
Behind, an attack from Nocentini is chased down by Gilbert's BMC team-mate Moinard.
Gilbert is all smiles - he knows that he will probably win this. The chasing group has sat up...
The gap for the Contador group is still just 1:30 so despite all the efforts, Landa and Aru could close down to a minute before the finish.
Gilbert's lead is still very slender: 34 seconds.
Katusha's Yuri Trofimov has a dig from the main group, looking to put pressure on Astana on this descent. The Russian is in fifth on GC.
Gilbert has opened up a gap - he clearly wants this win badly. He has 25 seconds on the seven chasers. Contador, Hesjedal and Villella are 5:35 down but 1:45 ahead of the Landa-Aru pack.
The leaders are on the final uphill section ahead of the last, longest stretch of this descent. And they are about to be caught by the chasing group, so we will soon have eight riders in front, with BMC making up 25% of the break. And Gilbert exploits that by following through straight away with an attack.
Matteo Busato has joined this chasing group - so we have four riders with Gilbert, Chavanel, Nocentini and Busato. They're 45 down on the four leaders. Contador has cut the gap to 6:15.
Hesjedal having words with the maglia rosa for not taking a pull on the second of these wooded three uphill segments ahead of the long final descent.
The four leaders (De la Cruz, Moindar, Bongiorno, Siutsou) have just 30 seconds over the three chasers (Chavanel, Nocentini, Gilbert) now. This is very interesting...
Contador and Hesjedal have caught the Canadian's team-mate Davide Villella, who was in that initial break. So we have two Cannodale riders and the maglia rosa in an unlikely alliance. They trail the leaders by seven minutes now.
The road is really narrow on this descent for the four leaders. Contador and Hesjedal are on one of those uphill segments, with Canadian setting the pace from behind his trademark visor. They have 1:40 now over the Landa chasing group. "It's all happening out here," said Sean Kelly. And he's not wrong!
The Landa-Aru pack crosses the summit 8:51 down - and so it's more than a minute for Contador. Meanwhile, Siutsou is momentarily dropped by the leading group. But the Bionic man from Belarus is back without too much ado.
Contador crsts the summit 7:43 down on the break and with Hesjedal right in his wheel. We'll soon get a time check back to the Landa group.
Back on the front, and Chavanel, Gilbert and Nocentini are riding as a trio in pursuit of the four leaders. They are on the first of three uphill segments that break up this long descent to the finish in Verbania. The gap is 50 seconds between the two leading group.
Astana are now back controlling the chasing group, with Kangert and Landa ahead of Aru. They still trail Contador by one minute. Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) is about to catch Contador.
Aru has been dropped by the Landa chasing group, which also includes Andre Amador. So, the Italian's third place on GC could be in threat... Hang on, no, he's back there. False alarm! But Movistar are pushing hard though, through Visconti, in anticupation of an Aru mishap. Tanel Kangert dropped back just then to pace Aru back, it's worth adding. Interesting decision - wonder what Landa would have thought of that.
Bongiorno edges ahead of the leaders to pick up maximum points over the summit of Monte Ologno. The four leaders still have a couple more ramps of this climb before the long descent to the finish.
Mechanical issue for Contador, who looks to have dropped his chain. The mechanic jumped out of the team car, steadied his man and gave him a push off - great awareness there. The Spaniard still has one minute over the main pack of other favourites. Landa looks to have joined Aru and the others now.
Contador is not giving up now, surging out of the saddle and clearly pushing on. He still has a minute over the Aru chasing group - and the Italian is struggling without his right-hand man Landa. Indeed, Konig is riding hard, clearly sniffing out an opportunity to move into the top five.
Stig Broeckx (Lotto Soudal) and Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) have both withdrawn from the race after those separate crashes ahead of this climb.
Just the four now up front: De la Cruz, Moinard, Siutsou and Bongiorno. They have dropped Nocentini. Contador cuts the gap to 8:30. Landa is at 9:35. He's almost caught the main pack containing team-mate Aru.
Contador's gap over Landa is down to 1:20. It looks like he's easing up a bit after making his point. It certainly is very odd seeing the maglia rosa ride up this climb on his own, with a break seemingly too far up the road to be reeled in.
This is a very different looking main pack - without both Contador and Landa. As for the front of the race, five of the escapees are ahead now: De la Cruz, Moinard, Bongiorno, Nocentini and Siutsou. Five riders are chasing on: Gilbert, Weening, Villella, Belkov and Chavanel. Both Busato and Haga have been distanced.
Landa was being paced back by his Astana team-mates - but now he's chasing back on his own. He's still behind the main pack - and the best part of two minutes behind Contador. Amazing scenes.
Steven Kruijswijk, the blue jersey, momentarily rode on Contador's wheel - but he couldn't keep up with the Spaniard. Contador has cut the gap to just nine minutes now. Does he think he could win today's stage - or is this merely him making a statement.
ATTACK: Alberto Contador is out of the saddle and riding solo up Monte Ologno! Incredible scenes here. The Spaniard clearly is getting payback from the other day.
CRASH: Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) has crashed in the peloton. Team-mate Ion Izaguirre is waiting for him, but it doesn't look too good. He seemed to have gone off into a wall on a tight left-hander. Meanwhile, the pack has started the climb.
Konig is apparently back with the peloton, which is bring driven hard by Tinkoff-Saxo. They haven't forgotten about Astana's tactics the other day with Contador picked up a puncture....
Riders in the break are being dropped now, starting with Haga. But the big news is that Mikel Landa appears to have been distanced by that crash in the peloton...
CRASH: Practically the entire Sky team have gone down heavily in the pack. Vasil Kiryienka and Elia Viviani went down badly. Leopold Konig is there, as is Salvatore Puccio. We have riders from Lotto Soudal and CCC Sprandi Polkowice on the deck too.
The break is onto the beginning of the Cat.1 climb of Monte Ologno. It's 10.5km long with an average gradient of 9% and a maximum gradient of 13%. Those steepest ramps are at the start - so we can expect a bit of action behind in the pack as they jostle for positioning ahead of the climb. They won't be here for another 12 minutes though...
Eurosport spoke to Sylvain Chavanel this morning: "It's the leader's team that makes the race but we're going to have to see if we can make the break. The profile is quite simple, but of course the last climb is going to difficult. But with the downhill I can probably try something. I'll try stay focused, anticipate what happens, and get into a break. Since the start of the race, it's been hard to get into a break that sticks. But today could be the day."
Gilbert, Belkov and Weening are all former Giro d'Italia stage winners.
The riders are passing through the finish town of Verbania right now, on the shores of Lake Maggiore. We'll now have a 50km loop up Monte Ologno and back. It's the first time the Giro has ever attempted this 10km climb so it's a little journey into the unknown... The gap has still around the 12:30 mark.
Tinkoff-Saxo are back on the front of the pack, with seven team-mates there for maglia rosa Alberto Contador. Astana are tucked in behind - a usual sight in this year's race on the flat terrain. The gap is 12:45.
Bernie Eisel (Team Sky) has been pulling on the front of the pack, helping to stablise the gap to around 12:30.
The break has crested a little hill ahead of the intermediate sprint at Beno. We now have a 30km run to the foot of the decisive climb. Philippe Gilbert, incidentally, picked up maximum points at the sprint. Remember, the Belgian has already won a stage in this year's race - stage 12 at Vicenza, Monte Berico.
With two tough days in the Alps ahead of Sunday's finale in Milan, the peloton has bigger fish to fry than this 12-man break, whose lead is now approaching 13 minutes. It will be interesting to see if Astana take it up on the climb - if not necessarily to try and win this race (the Giro) then to try and get rid of a rival for the next (the Tour de France). After all, the harder Contador is made to work in pink, the harder he'll find it to take the yellow from Vincenzo Nibali in July...
In all the excitement we forgot to mention that it's a hot, cloudless day in northern Italy. The gap is now up to 12 minutes and so it's pretty much certain: the winner today will be one of the 12 riders in this group.
The gap for the 12 leaders is over 11 minutes now.
The leaders pass through the feed zone at Feriolo - and it looks like those three chasers (Ferrari, Felline and Herrada) have called off their effort and returned to the peloton. Ferrari was earlier involved in that crash with a race vehicle that ended Damiano Cunego's Giro.
We're hearing news that the crash that did for Cunego and Ferrari was caused by an official race motorbike... More on that when we get it confirmed.
Here's a sneak peak at today's break, being driven by Chad Haga (Giant Alpecin) and Francesco Bongiorno (Bardiani-CSF).
The gap has ballooned to 9:20 for the leaders, with those three riders still chasing on. It's fair to assume that this is a move that should well stick - even if there are fireworks in the pack behind when Astana throw down the inevitable hammer. So, who's your tip for the win? Have your say below...
So, this is an interesting group, with BMC holding the ace card what with two riders in it. Gilbert and Moinard are quality riders and not bad climbers on their day. One of them could well win today. That said, GreenEdge will fancy their chances with Weening, while both Villella and Nocentini are ones to watch, while no one can deny Chavanel's spunky exuberance and careworn experience.
The leading dozen riders have 2:50 over the chasing trio who themselves have 3:40 over the peloton. That break formed after 48km of riding.
Damiano Cunego - the 2004 Giro champion - has since withdrawn after that crash. More on the incident when we get it...
Italians Roberto Ferrari (Lampre Merida) and Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini) were in the break but they reportedly had a crash. Ferrari is back on his bike and chasing down the leading group with two others - Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing).
The 12-man break in full: Chad Haga (Giant Alpecin), Davide Villella (Cannondale-Garmin), Matteo Busato (SouthEast), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), David De La Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep), Philippe Gilbert and Amael Moinard (BMC), Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani CSF), Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Kanstantsin Siutsou (Team Sky).
BREAK: Over a dozen riders have managed to edge ahead of the peloton, including veterans Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling).
Still no break after a fast start to the stage. A reminder that Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk leads the blue jersey mountains classification by one slender point over Spain's Benat Intxausti (Movistar). We can expect one - or perhaps both - of those riders to get in today's break in a bid to pick up more points on Monte Ologno.
French veteran Jerome Pineau (IAM Cycling) has called it a day and withdrawn from the race. He was in a break last week but has otherwise acted as the Swiss team's road captain. Now we have 168 riders left in the race.
A fast pace in the peloton deterred any early breaks. Yesterday, Giacomo Nizzolo missed out on the win but did manage to wrest the red jersey from shoulders of Elia Viviani. The Trek Factory Racing rider has a lead of 17 points over Sacha Modolo, with Viviani now 25 points down in third place after the Team Sky rider could only muster an 11th place finish in the sprint.
169 riders took to the start this morning at Melide. The first 120km of today's stage is largely flat so expect a fairly decent-sized break getting away to establish a large lead ahead of the climb.
It was another win for the host nation yesterday - the seventh of the race - as Sacha Modolo sprinted to his second, and Lampre-Merida's fourth, scalp of the Giro in Lugano. There was no change on GC, with Contador retaining his 4:02 lead over Mikel Landa of Astana. Fabio Aru is a further 50 seconds off the pace after his travails on Wednesday's stage to Aprica, won by his team-mate Landa.
It's a medium mountain stage with just that one climb - but its position near the finish should spark some activity from the main protagonists of the race, and its followed by a long descent to the finish where race leader Alberto Contador will have to keep very much on the ball.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia - a 170km slog from the Swiss town of Melide to Verbania, which includes the Cat.1 Monte Ologno.