Italy's Vincenzo Nibali won Stage 18 of the 2013 Giro d'Italia on Thursday and extended his overall lead. In a stage filled with mountainous terrain, Nibali blew away the competition, finishing in 44 minutes, 29 seconds.
BBC Sports tweets Nibali's triumph:
The win never seemed to be in doubt for Nibali. The next closest competitor, Sammy Sanchez of Spain, was 58 seconds behind. Nibali's biggest current threat in the overall standings, Cadel Evans of Australia, was 25th on Thursday.
The huge gap between Nibali and Evans gave the Italian a four-minute lead.
Giro d'Italia's official Twitter account captures Thursday's victor on the podium:
Here is a look at a few highlights from Stage 18.
Here is a look at the top 10 performers from Stage 18.
|2||Samuel Sanchez ||Spain||+0:58|
|10||Danilo Di Luca||Italy||+1:52|
Finally, these are the top 10 riders in the overall standings.
|2||Cadel Evans||BMC Racing||Australia||+0:04:02|
|3||Rigoberto Uran Uran||Sky Procycling||Colombia||+0:04:12|
|5||Przemyslaw Niemiec ||Lampre-Merida||Poland||+0:06:09|
|7||Carlos Betancur ||AG2R||Colombia||+0:06:47|
|8||Mauro Santambrogio||Vini Fantini-Selle Italia||Italy||+0:07:30|
|10||Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez||Euskaltel-Euskadi||Spain||+0:09:34|
To view the complete Stage 18 and overall results, visit the race's official website
To get an idea of how much of a climb the riders faced on Thursday, take a look at this image from Gazzetta.it:
Even though the terrain for Stage 18 was tough, it may be nothing compared to what riders could face on Friday. Stage 19 is a roller coaster of peaks and valleys as you can see from this diagram, also from Gazzetta.it:
In addition to the up-and-down track, inclement weather could also be a major impediment. Per the BBC:
Friday's mountainous stage is scheduled to take in the Gavia and Stelvio mountain passes but snow is forecast and temperatures atop the mountains have been reported to be -14C.
Race directors are monitoring the weather conditions in the Dolomite mountains and will decide in the morning whether the race has to be re-routed through the valleys.
If the race isn't re-routed, Stage 19 could prove to be the toughest of the event.
Looking Ahead to Final Three Stages
Things are about to become extremely tough on all the riders. The final three stages will separate the pretenders from the contenders.
Mountain stages and cold weather will provide opportunities for determined riders who are trailing the leaders. It could also result in front-runners like Nibali and Evans running away from the pack.
One thing is for sure: No stage win will be easy from this point on.
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