Nicolas Roche was unable to make it back-to-back Irish wins on the Giro d'Italia as Alberto Bettiol took a fine stage win from a breakaway.

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

Roche was part of a large breakaway group but had to settle for a third place finish on today's 18th stage from Rovereto to Stradella.

Cavagna had been first to attack from the 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.

The French rider built a lead of 30 seconds but it tumbled on the the short climbs in the final 15km as Bettiol and then 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.

Race leader Egan Bernal enjoyed a more comfortable day in the pink jersey.

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 seconds.

Dan Martin remains in tenth place overall, 13:37mins off the lead.

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 Hugh Carthy.

"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.

"I hope I’ve recovered well, I felt much better on the bike than yesterday and I hope tomorrow will be another good day," Bernal said.

"It’s difficult to say I’m super-confident – I’m just trying to do my best. You can’t say you are overconfident because we saw yesterday and in the past years that with one bad day you can lose everything.

"I have a lot of respect for the other guys and I need to be focused and do my best, that’s it."