More Groves frustration in Aussies' Giro near-miss

So near once again yet still empty-handed, sprinter Kaden Groves was left admitting his disappointment after just missing out on delivering Australia's first triumph of the 107th Giro d'Italia.

Stage 18 on Thursday looked to be within the Queenslander's grasp in another chaotic mass finish, but after mistiming his charge from the front, the Alpecin-Deceuninck speedster was agonisingly reeled in over the dying metres, sandwiched by the two best sprinters in this edition of the Italian Grand Tour.

Tim Merlier, on one side of the Australian, raced past to take his second victory of this Giro, while on Groves' other flank, Jonathan Milan, the points jersey leader, was edged out by less than half a wheel for his fourth stage win.

Groves, who had already finished runner-up in two previous stages, this time had to settle for third, and the Gympie rider's frustration was palpable after the 178km ride from Fiera di Primiero to Padua.

"The team did a really good job and in the end I got to sprint, but it was probably a bit early in the end into the headwind, and it's quite disappointing really," shrugged the 25-year-old Groves.

"I took it from the front which meant I could have a good sprint and not be bossed behind, but in the end Jonathan and Tim have come with really fast speed. They're on a good level and tough to beat."

Indeed, both Merlier and Milan had been out of position further down the field just before the denouement and looked to have left themselves too much to do until the slightest hesitation from the riders ahead enabled them to regroup and attack.

Milan, who'd won the previous three flat stages, ended up apologising 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."

Once again, there was disappointment for Australian Caleb Ewan, whose miserable tour continued with an eighth-place finish, his second-best of the entire race.

In the race for the points jersey, Milan, on 327 points, remains well ahead of second-placed Groves (200), while Ewan lies a hugely disappointing 19th.

There's only one sprint stage left, the pizza-flat finale around Rome. "Get through the next few days in the mountains and we've got one more chance," shrugged Groves.

Before then, there are two more demanding stages to come, after Thursday's action resulted in no change to the general classification, with champion elect Tadej Pogacar stilll seven minutes 43 seconds clear.

Dani Martinez, of Colombian, is second with Geraint Thomas another 23 seconds back in third and Australian Ben O'Connor a further 1:43 adrift.

The race moves back into the hills on Friday with a 157km stage from Mortegliano to Sappada.