Preston rider Hugh Carthy’s team-mate celebrates stage success in Giro d’Italia

Hugh Carthy’s team-mate Alberto Bettiol took a fine stage win from a breakaway as Egan Bernal enjoyed a more comfortable day in the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia.

Bettiol timed his move to perfection as he overhauled Remi Cavagna on the final short climb of the 231km stage 18 from Rovereto to Stradella before going solo for the final six kilometres to take his first Giro stage win.

After showing signs of weakness in Wednesday’s summit finish in Sega di Ala, Bernal had less to worry about on a largely flat day as a relaxed peloton rolled in some 23 minutes later – their minds set on two big mountain days to come before Sunday’s closing time trial.

That meant the Ineos Grenadiers rider retained his two minute 21 second lead over Damiano Caruso, with Simon Yates staying third at three minutes and 23 

Alberto Bettiol celebrates after winning the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia

But the day belonged to Bettiol, the EF Education Nippo rider who has spent the bulk of the race thus far working in service for fifth-placed Preston rider Carthy.

Cavagna had been first to attack from a large breakaway group, going solo with 26km to go as he looked to salvage Deceuninck-QuickStep’s race, with Remco Evenepoel a non-starter following a crash on Wednesday.

He built a lead of 30 seconds but it tumbled on the short climbs in the final 15km as Bettiol and then Nicolas Roche made counter-attacks.

Cavagna cracked close to the top of the first climb as Bettiol went clear, and it was Team DSM’s Roche – looking to double up for Ireland after his cousin Dan Martin won a stage 24 hours earlier – who set off in pursuit.

There would be no catching the 2019 Tour of Flanders winner, however, and Roche had to settle for third, caught on the line by Simone Consonni.

“I really wanted a victory like this,” Bettiol said.

“I had already come close on a couple of occasions.

“This morning Hugh gave me the green light to go on the attack, I want to thank him and the whole team.

“I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.”

Friday’s stage 19 takes the race to a summit finish on the Alpe di Mera, another chance for rivals to test Bernal after he lost almost a minute to Yates on Wednesday.