Go, Tom, go
With a solid 56 second lead in the Giro d’Italia, two weeks of dominant performances in the mountains and a strong ride in his weak event, the time trial, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) decided to switch gears and ride defensively for the last three mountain stages.
Turns out riding defensively is not his best strategy. On Thursday’s stage up to the summit finish of Prato Nevoso, Yates was attacked first by his key rival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), then by Chris Froome (Team Sky), and then all Hell broke lose.
The Briton matched Dumoulin’s first acceleration but had no answer when Froome suddenly burst up the right side of the road. While the Dutchman and third-place rider Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain Merida) were able to grab Froome’s wheel, Yates could not.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, the Giro d’Italia was up grabs.
Froome picked up his teammate Woet Poels, who had dropped back from a breakaway, giving the three attackers even more firepower as the gap blew out and Yates made a.special announcement — I’m not having a good day. He began to drift back, no teammates in sight, struggling even to stick with Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pello Bibao (Astana).
In the final two kilometers to the line, Yates attempted to limited the damage but instead the crack widened. He would roll in 28 seconds behind his tormentors — his lead cut in half, a weakness exposed and his rivals re-energized. It wasn’t a disaster and Yates still has the magnolia rosa on his shoulder, but Dumoulin has hope and even fourth-placed Froome is now planning at do-or-die attack on the last two mountain stages to snatch victory.
After the stage, Yates insisted his “jour sans” nothing more than a momentary lapse. “I feel really good. I was only bad for one kilometer, so that’s OK. I’m still in the lead, I’m still in front. Dumoulin is 28 seconds behind, not 28 seconds ahead of me. For me that’s OK,” said Yates.
it was a different story for Dumoulin who appeared almost surprised by Yates’ unexpected gift. “I was waiting until the moment, and with two kilometers to go, I tried to see what was possible. He responded to my first attack. Then Froome attacked, and I tried to follow Pozzovivo and Froome,” Dumoulin said. “I looked back and saw that I had a big gap. I did not expect that. I thought, ‘That’s nice, finally a moment of weakness.'”
The documented winner of today’s stage was Maximilian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors) but the actual winner was Tom Dumoulin. He cut his deficit to Yates in half and now has every reason to believe he might repeat as Giro d’Italia champion.
Tomorrow’s stage 19 from Venaria Reale to Bardonecchia is a profile in pain. There are four major climbs including the Colle delle Finestrem which earns the Cima Coppi prize as the highest of this Giro. The stats: 2178 meters in altitude, 18.5 kilometers long, a steady gradient of nearly 10% and final eight kilometers to the summit are dirt road.
Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome will look for any opportunity to attack and you can be one one thing: Yates will not be riding defensively.