Italy’s Alberto Bettiol earned victory on stage 18 in Stradella ©Getty Images

Italy’s Alberto Bettiol earned a solo victory at the Giro d’Italia as the breakaway triumphed again on stage 18 in Stradella.

The 231 kilometre stage from Rovereto to Stradella was the longest of this year’s race.

A 23-rider breakaway was allowed to move clear by the general classification riders, who are preparing for three crucial final days of the race.

The move established a comfortable advantage, leaving the stage to be contested by the break.

France’s Remi Cavagna attempted to move clear as the stage approached 25 kilometres to go, with the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider launching an effort on a climb.

Cavagna, whose team leader Remco Evenepoel was forced out of the race yesterday after a crash, was unable to remain clear.

He was closed by Ireland’s Nicholas Roche and Bettiol, with the latter ultimately pushing clear on the final climb to earn a solo stage win.

Bettiol crossed the line in a winning time of 5 hours 14min 43sec.

The general classification battle will resume tomorrow ©Getty Images
The general classification battle will resume tomorrow ©Getty Images

"I really wanted a victory like this, I had already come close on a couple of occasions," said Bettiol, who rides for EF Education-Nippo.

"This morning my captain Hugh Carthy 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, it's always difficult to get into the breakaway in the third week of the Giro, many riders wanted to try to win today.

"In the finale, so many guys were looking at me and looking for my wheel.

"I was sure that Cavagna would try something.

"Luckily I caught him and attacked him immediately, I tried to hit him mentally and it paid off.

"Now I'm really happy with this success, it means a lot to me, I want to dedicate it to my former manager who passed away last year, Mauro Battaglini."

Bettiol finished with a 17 second cushion over the chasing group, who were led over the line by Italy’s Simone Consonni and Roche.

The general classification group finished 23:30 behind the stage winner.

Race leader Egan Bernal retained his overall lead with the Colombian remaining 2:21 clear of second placed Damiano Caruso of Italy.

Britain’s Simon Yates is third at 3:23 down.

Two mountain stages and an individual time trial will bring the race to a close.