King of the mountains leader Julian Arredondo won the 18th stage of the Giro dItalia. Photo: Gian Mattia D'Alberto

Milan - King of the mountains leader Julian Arredondo won the 18th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday as Colombian compatriot Nairo Quintana held on to the overall race lead.

Trek’s Arredondo broke clear of an escape group in the final 4km and held off another compatriot, Fabio Duarte, to take the victory by 17sec.

Irishman Philip Deignan of Team Sky took third on the stage, 37sec back at the end of the 171km stage from Belluno to Rif Panarotta.

Australian 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans was the big loser as he was dropped by the group of favourites and lost his podium place.

The 37-year-old BMC rider dropped to ninth overall from third at the beginning of the day.

Quintana, who took the leader’s pink jersey by winning Tuesday’s 16th stage, leads another Colombian, Rigoberto Uran, by 1min 41sec with Frenchman Pierre Rolland up to third overall at 3min 29sec.

Arredondo soloed to the biggest win of his life in a thrilling finish on the final climb in which the lead changed hands several times.

After Belgian Thomas de Gendt and Italian Franco Pellizotti had both tried their luck, Arredondo finally made a solo break stick.

Duarte, who had covered an earlier dig from Arredondo 6km out, tried to respond, but this time could not bridge the gap.

Behind the breakaway riders, the battle was on for podium places as Movistar’s Quintana expertly marshalled any danger to his overall lead.

Evans was the first to crack, giving Rolland, whose attacks thinned out the favourites group, the chance to snatch a podium spot.

However, he has two riders just two seconds back after Italian Fabio Aru of Astana pulled back a handful of seconds on the Europcar rider.

Aru is fourth on the same time as fifth-placed Rafal Majka with Italian Domenico Pozzovivo just 23sec behind Rolland in sixth.