It was a big day for the team all-around, with Irishman Eddie Dunbar gaining ground in the general classification battle, moving up to fourth place overall.
Zana, wearing the tricolore Italian national road champion’s jersey and riding his Propel Advanced SL team bike, outsprinted breakaway companion Thibaut Pinot at the end of a mountainous 160km stage to earn the win on home turf. It was the 24-year-old’s first grand tour stage victory, and the second for Team Jayco AlUla in this year's Giro following Michael Matthews' Stage 3 victory.
“For me, this Giro d’Italia has been a dream,” said Zana, who had plenty of fans on his home roads in the region of Veneto. “I need to thank Team Jayco AlUla for allowing me to join a WorldTour team and bringing me to where I am now at this level.”
Following a sprint day on Wednesday, Stage 18 served up a decisive challenge in the Dolomites. The action started early with plenty of attacks, and the peloton exploded over the Category 1 Passo della Crosetta. That’s where Zana joined a seven-rider breakaway that would hold its advantage until a trio of climbs in the final 30km.
Of those seven breakaway riders, the stage win came down to a duel between Zana and the veteran Pinot, who was motivated to get the win in his final season before retirement. The two distanced themselves from the rest on the final climb, holding a gap of about one minute as they hit the steeps of the final climb. Zana played it to perfection, launching his final sprint with about 200 meters to go.
“I tried to stay behind until the last moment as I thought that an occasion such as this is quite rare, and I wanted to give it everything,” said Zana, who wore the Giant Rev Pro helmet to get the win. “It was a 50/50 opportunity but in the end I had something extra. It’s an incredible feeling, to win a stage at the Giro d’Italia wearing the Italian national champion jersey.”
Meanwhile, just behind the battle for the stage win, Zana’s teammate Eddie Dunbar was having a terrific day as well. A first-year rider on Team Jayco AlUla, riding in only his second grand tour ever, the 26-year-old Irishman keeps moving up the ranks in the three-week grand tour. He moved up from eighth to fifth overall on Stage 16, and then gained one more spot on Stage 18 with another brilliant day in the mountains.
“When [Primož] Roglič attacked, I just went at my own pace, and I knew [João] Almeida was coming across,” Dunbar said. “When they caught me I just sat on them as much as I could. We’re taking it day by day. These victories don’t come around that often and I think this victory is just a credit to everyone on the team. Chapeau!”