(Palafavera) Geraint Thomas, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Thursday, retained the lead in the Tour of Italy by even grabbing a few seconds from Joao Almeida in the company of Primoz Roglic, his new runner-up, at the end of the 18th stage on Thursday in Val di Zoldo.

The Italian champion, Filippo Zana, created the surprise by winning the stage in a sprint ahead of the Frenchman Thibaut Pinot whose hope of winning a final victory in the Giro probably disappeared, before his retirement at the end of year.

The two men were part of a long breakaway of seven riders who managed to stay around two minutes ahead of the main favorites.

These were explained in the penultimate ascent where Roglic attacked, only followed by Thomas. But Almedia hung on and ultimately managed to limit the damage to keep their place on the podium, 39 seconds behind Thomas and ten seconds behind Roglic.

” It’s a good day. I stayed with Primoz and we managed to take some time off Joao. But you have to be careful. Roglic had a bad day the other day and today it was Almeida’s turn”, commented Geraint Thomas.

The Giro could be played on Friday during the queen stage towards Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the roof of this 106th edition, where we expect a big fight between favorites.

This is the hardest stage on paper with its five ascents, all formidable. The peloton will have to bump into the terrible Passo Giau (9.9 km at 9.3%) where Egan Bernal cemented his success in the Giro in 2021, before starting the final climb to Tre Cime di Lavaredo, at 2304 m. , with a gradient of 7.2 km at 7.6%.

Arriving about two minutes ahead of the favourites, Pinot is back in the general standings where he is now in seventh place, 4 min 43 s behind the leader. He can also console himself for having taken back the blue jersey of best climber after having filled up at the top of all the passes.

But it was clearly the disappointment that prevailed for the Frenchman, already second Friday in Crans Montana, that we could see the haggard and curled up look on himself at the end of the stage.

“There is still much less disappointment. I really put everything I had, commented Pinot. It was a great breakaway, I was with Warren (Barguil) and Aurélien (Paret-Peintre), guys I like. I start the sprint from a bit far, but I still have fewer regrets than the last time. »

He had however done what was necessary by hanging a strong breakaway. And it was on the pedal that Pinot won all these pretty people, except the amazing Filippo Zana, 24, sublimated by wearing the national champion’s jersey.

“It’s already a dream to be on this Giro. So winning a stage, with the Italian champion’s jersey, is incredible. It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” jubilant the runner from Jayco-AlUla.