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Team Soudal-Quick Step's Belgian rider Tim Merlier celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 18th stage of the 107th Giro d'Italia cycling race, 178km between Fiera di Primiero and Padua on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Padua: Tim Merlier of team Soudal Quick-Step claimed his second victory in this year’s Giro d’Italia when he prevailed in a sprint finish to take stage 18 on Thursday.

Belgian Merlier finished narrowly ahead of points classification leader Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek). The win lifted Merlier three places to third with 143 points, while Milan moved to 327.

“I was a bit surprised that the last kilometre was so fast. I found the moment to start my sprint. It was tight but I know I’m fast,” Merlier said after the hectic finish to the 178km race in Padua.

Milan, who won the previous three flat stages, apologised to his team.

“I lost their wheel,” the Italian said. “This finish was more tricky than we were thinking. It was dangerous. I think the most dangerous finish that we did until now.” Merlier’s team mate Pieter Serry was leading the peloton along with Juan Lopez (Lidl-Trek) through rainy conditions early in the race as a leading group created a gap of over two and a half minutes.

But the peloton closed the gap on the leaders in the second half of the race as the weather improved.

Overall leader Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) maintained a lead of seven minutes and 42 seconds over second-placed Daniel Martinez (Bora-Hansgrohe). Kaden Groves of Alpecin-Deceuninck, second in the points classification, finished third.

Stage 19, a 157km race from Mortegliano to Sappada, takes place on Friday.