American Eagle Sepp Kuss Puts Almeida Under Pressure | Giro d’Italia 2023 Stage 18

Val di Zoldo – Italy – cycling – epp Kuss (USA – Jumbo – Visma) – Primoz Roglic (SLO – Jumbo – Visma) – Geraint Thomas (GBR – INEOS Grenadiers) pictured during Giro dÕItalia 2023 – 106th Edition – stage -18 from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo (Palafavera) (161km) – 25/05/2023 – Photo: Luca Bettini/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Geraint Thomas is defending the Maglia Rosa well, being the only rider that has not lost time on a mountain stage to his rivals Joao Almeida and Primož Roglič. Thomas finished together with Roglič, while Almeida was dropped by Sepp Kuss’s acceleration on the steep Coi climb, losing 21 seconds to his main rivals.

Giro d’Italia Stage 18 2023 profile by La Flamme Rouge

It was another hard mountain day in the Giro with huge kilojoules before the decisive climb. The GC teams probably were saving some bullets for the next two stages which includes a very hard road stage and a mountain time trial with inhumane gradients. Brandon McNulty in the peloton spent 4121 kilojoules for 4:18h which is 14.19 kj/kg/h, a very hard day in the saddle before the steep Coi climb (5.3 km, 9.8%). Before it came the Forcella Cibana (9.7 km, 7.7%), where the peloton did 5.70 ᵉW/Kg for 28:53 min – definitely enough to hurt the legs with only a short descent before the very steep Coi.

There were doubts about Primož Roglič as he lost time on Monte Bondone to Joao Almeida and Geraint Thomas on Tuesday and was seen multiple times at the back of the group when the attacks flowed during breakaway formation earlier in the stage. INEOS or UAE did not try to pace hard to test Roglič late in the stage, which ended up being the right decision as the Slovenian was reborn from the ashes. On the steep Coi section, pure climber Sepp Kuss put up a strong performance with only Roglič and Thomas able to follow his acceleration. Joao Almeida as usual set his own tempo with the help of his teammate Jay Vine. Almeida was not far back but it was important to catch the leaders as there was a descent and small climb after Coi with more moderate gradients to the finish.

Val di Zoldo – Italy – cycling – Sepp Kuss (USA – Jumbo – Visma) – Primoz Roglic (SLO – Jumbo – Visma) ictured during Giro dÕItalia 2023 – 106th Edition – stage -18 from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo (Palafavera) (161km) – 25/05/2023 – Photo: Luca Bettini/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Sepp Kuss did 6.70 ᵉW/Kg for 11 minutes on the steep section and 6.38 ᵉW/Kg for 18:31 min on the whole climb, as the first part was still relatively slow with INEOS just controlling the gap to the breakaway. Regardless, the late action was enough to make big splits in the GC group that was tired after 4000 metres of elevation gain. Almeida, thanks to the pacing of Vine, lost only 6 seconds on the Coi climb itself but then nearly crashed on the descent as the Australian went too fast in a corner.

On the final part of the stage, Roglič was left alone with Thomas with the Slovenian doing most of the work. But it was worth it, as Almeida was without Vine and in the end lost 21 seconds despite being almost back to the leading duo by the end of the short descent off Coi. There were no bonus seconds on the line as the breakaway won with the Italian champion Filippo Zana winning a sprint against Thibaut Pinot, after the Frenchman did a good lead-out for the Jayco-AlUla climber.

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The next stage will be a cruel one, with multiple mountain passes before Passo Giau where Egan Bernal danced away from his rivals on a rainy shortened stage in the 2021 Giro. Passo Tre Croci and Tre Cime di Laverado finish off the stage, with very steep ramps sure to create some gaps. Roglič, Thomas and Almeida are close in the GC but every second will matter in the final mountain time trial. Thomas definitely is happy with this situation but INEOS, Jumbo and UAE all should try to gain time if there is an opportunity and if their team leader feels good. No one can predict what could happen on the stage 20 time trial as the 2020 Tour showed - bad legs on extended 15-20% gradients can cost minutes.

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 2023 profile by La Flamme Rouge
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