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SANTA MARIA DI SALA, Italy (AP) — Damiano Cima of Italy earned his first professional victory by winning the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday, and Ecuadorian cyclist Richard Carapaz remained in the overall lead.
Cima, who rides for Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizane, had been part of a three-man breakaway which was caught by the peloton in the final meters of the mainly downhill, 222-kilometer (138-mile) route from Valdaora to Santa Maria di Sala.
However, the 25-year-old Cima held on in the bunch sprint to get his team's first ever Giro victory, in his first Grand Tour.
"I can't believe what just happened," Cima said. "I've spent so many kilometers in breakaways during this Giro. I thought I'd never make it but I've won today. It's insane. It's the dream of a lifetime."
Pascal Ackermann was second, with Simone Consonni third. Ackermann, who was bidding for a third stage victory in this year's race, hit his handlebars in frustration as he was pipped to the line by Cima.
"For sure I'm a little disappointed I did not win," Ackermann said. "If you saw how the breakaway went, for sure he's a lucky winner today. He was the strongest today. They were fighting really hard against our team when they were pulling."
Carapaz remained 1 minute, 54 seconds ahead of Vincenzo Nibali and 2:16 ahead of Primoz Roglic of Slovenia.
"It's been a quiet stage but a long one, intense at the beginning only," said Carapaz, who rides for Movistar. "I've had a good support from my team again. Tomorrow will be an important test but I'm confident to keep the Maglia Rosa."
The Giro heads back into the mountains for Friday's 19th stage, a 151-kilometer route from Treviso, with an uphill finish to San Martino di Castrozza.
The three-week race finishes in Verona on Sunday.
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