Giro d’Italia 2018
Britain’s Simon Yates held off Dutchman Tom Dumoulin to win for a second time on the Giro d’Italia and extend his lead in the overall standings after an explosive conclusion to Stage 11 in Osimo as Chris Froome endured another day to forget.
Doing the maglia rosa proud, the in-form Yates attacked early and clinically on the final climb of the short and sharp 155km stage from Assisi, blowing the peloton apart and reminding his GC rivals that he is the man to beat in the 101st edition of La Corsa Rosa.
Yates, of Mitchelton-Scott, made his decisive move with a kilometre and a half remaining to catch Czech national champion Zdenek Stybar and the Belgian Tim Wellens on a steep 16-percent ramp before riding clear of Team Sunbweb’s Dumoulin and the rest of the field.
Dumoulin, the defending champion and pre-race favourite, dug deep on the final cobbled rise into the old town centre but was unable to catch a rider seemingly in the peak of his powers.
Yates finished two seconds clear of Dumoulin and, thanks to 10 bonus seconds, extended his lead to 47 seconds over his nearest challenger. Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) retained his third place but now trails the race summit by 64 seconds.
Italy’s Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) took third place in the stage, five seconds down and three seconds clear of a chasing group that included team-mate Patrick Konrad, French duo Pinot and Alexandre Geniez (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and the Italian Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain Merida).
Team Sky’s Froome finished 40 seconds in arrears to drop out of the top 10 along with the Canadian Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) as Austria’s Konrad and tenth-place Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) rose up in the standings.
Froome now trails his compatriot by 3’20” in an increasingly difficult race that he vowed nevertheless to complete prior to the day’s action.
Starting in the Umbrian town of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, Stage 11 was ridden at a relentless pace and had a poignant backdrop as the route took the riders through the home town of the late Michele Scarponi.
A bombardment of attacks came from the outset but it took the best part of 30 kilometres before a break finally managed to establish a telling gap over a peloton wary of the pitfalls of an off-day, with Esteban Chaves’ Stage 10 implosion still fresh in the mind.
It was no surprise to see Scarponi’s old Astana team-mate Luis Leon Sanchez at the heart of the action, with the Spaniard eventually forming the day’s five-man break alongside Italians Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Fausto Masnada (Androni-CSF), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF) and Alex Turrin (Willier Triestina).
The gap stretched out to four minutes as youngster Masnada took maximum points over the first two categorised climbs to move into fourth place in the KOM maglia azzurra standings.
But with so many teams harbouring aspirations for the stage win – including Lotto-Fix All for Stage 4 winner Wellens, LottoNL-Jumbo for Stage 5 winner Enrico Battaglin and Trek-Segafredo for Gianluca Brambilla – the break was never given much leeway and the gap soon came tumbling down.
As the race hit the old training roads of the sorely missed local hero Scarponi, Sanchez upped the tempo on the steep ramp into Filottrano to win the intermediate sprint and ensure that the final two riders to join the break – Turrin and Maestri – were the first to bade it farewell.
The peloton passed through Scarponi’s home town trailing the trio by 1’45” with 30km remaining as the locals released hundreds of balloons in the blue and yellow of the late Italian’s Astana team.
With Sanchez’s chances of a commemorative win looking more and more unlikely, Astana sent Miguel Angel Lopez and Alexey Lutsenko onto the front.
But it was Lotto-Fix All, LottoNL-Jumbo and the Mitchelton-Scott, Groupama-FDJ and Bahrain Merida teams of GC riders Yates, Pinot and Pozzovivo who took the initiative in the chase.
The break was gobbled up with 5km remaining and just as the race hit the stinging double-digit cobbled ramp of the Via Costa del Borgo. As if on cue, Stybar and Wellens came surging forward – and the duo crested the summit with a 10-second gap over a chasing group of around 30 riders.
Wellens and Stybar looked like winners elect as they zipped along a fast downhill ahead of the final test – but as soon as Yates made his move, their prospects vanished into thin air.
Dancing out of the saddle and with his mouth agape, Yates surged past Stybar and then Wellems as Pozzovivo led the chase. Dumoulin then took over the reins but the 27-year-old Dutchman was unable to match the explosiveness of the man in pink.
Behind, Froome was pedalling squares – and probably missed the support of his Colombian team-mate Sergio Henao, who had crashed into the barriers on the previous cobbled ramp.
Knowing that in this race every second could count come Rome, Yates pressed to the finish to secure a second superb win. But for all his efforts, his net gain came to just six seconds over Dumoulin, who could well take back three whole minutes on Tuesday’s 34.2km time trial.
Yates, whose brother Adam won a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in Filottrano in March, said he was keen to make hay while the sun shined – mindful of the ITT and other tests on the horizon.
“I need more time,” he admitted. “These are the stages when I can pick up time because they are explosive. It might be harder once we get to the longer climbs. I’ll keep trying. I’m happy that I can do at least a little bit today.
“Tom is more of a steady climber and extremely hard to drop. He’s incredible. He was chasing me all the way up and I only just held on. It was a really difficult final. I’m super happy but I’d like to have a few easy days now before we get to the mountains.”
The battle for pink will resume on Saturday with the queen stage to Monte Zoncolan, which follows two stages that should reopen the door to the sprinters.
Thurday’s 214km Stage 12 from Osimo to Imola is virtually pan-flat as is Stage 13 to Nervesa Della Battaglia – music to the ears of the likes of Elia Viviani and Sam Bennett, who will resume their battle for the maglia ciclamino as the GC riders rest up ahead of bigger challenges ahead.