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The Mitchelton-Scott captain attacked late to drop a struggling Chris Froome (Sky) and then poured on the gas to further distance his most direct GC rivals. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) was livid at the finish line after other riders in the chase group refused to contribute to his satisfaction.
“I don’t give a damn at this point. I’m totally fucked now,” Dumoulin stewed. “I had to dig so deep to stay with those other riders after Yates’ attack. And in the end it didn’t even matter, cause everybody there was just taking the piss. If I immediately started riding by myself, I would have lost a lot less time on Yates. Because of them taking the piss I lose a lot more.”
Dumoulin was desperate to organize an effective chase after Yates powered away. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar) did not see eye-to-eye on how to manage the challenging finale.
Pinot suggested that Carapaz and Lopez were racing for the white jersey, not to limit their losses to Yates.
“There was the squabble between Carapaz and Lopez for the white jersey. They were eye-balling each other, they condemned our little group a little,” said Pinot, who is fourth overall just behind Pozzovivo. “Maybe we could have caught up with Yates and especially taken time on the
Dumoulin tried his best to limit the damage. The defending Giro champion eventually chased back to finish third at 41 seconds, while Froome ceded 1:32 a day after winning atop Monte Zoncolan to revive his GC hopes.
Dumoulin desperately waved his arm in circles to try to better organize the chase in a stage that could prove a tipping point in the bitter battle with Yates for the pink jersey.
“Pinot worked a little bit with me. Pozzovivo did some short ‘coward-pulls’. Aah, I can understand them obviously. That is cycling. That’s what makes the sport so beautiful. But I had to adjust my tactics,” Dumoulin said. “I thought, when I just time trial alone, then I’ll be faster at the finish than if I stay here, fooling around with those other guys. So I started riding as hard as I could. I knew that they would drop me, which they did. But luckily I could come back and I was even close to winning the sprint.”
It was a dramatic end to what turned out to be Yates’s most successful stage yet. The Englishman bounded away from his direct rivals to widen his lead going into Monday’s rest day and Tuesday’s decisive time trial. Yates was happy to hear of the troubles in his wake.
“My attack was a little bit on instinct. I saw a little gap. I gave everything the second time to get away,” Yates said. “I’ve been fighting since Israel to build a good lead. I’m happy with the gap I have now but it’s far from over. It could vanish in 35-kilometers.”
A day after finishing second to Froome, Yates attacked on the penultimate climb when Froome struggled to keep pace with the favorite’s group at the sharp end of the lumpy, five-climb stage across the Dolomites. A day after pouring everything into winning at Monte Zoncolan, Froome could not answer and quickly started bleeding time.
“[It’s] very disappointing, but that’s racing. When you spend so much energy one day, you pay the next,” Froome said. “I spent so much yesterday to win the stage it’s normal that I didn’t have the legs today.”
Froome dropped from fifth to seventh, now 4:52 back. Dumoulin remained second overall but slipped to 2:11. Froome all but conceded the race but Dumoulin is hanging on. Both are counting on Tuesday’s time trial to revive their GC hopes.
The big question now is whether or not Froome and Dumoulin can regain enough real estate in Tuesday’s individual time trial to give Yates a real challenge for the pink jersey.
Both Froome and Dumoulin need knock-out time trial performances with the hope of Yates struggling even to have a realistic chance of capturing pink.
“Yates made a very impressive race today and now it’s going to be very difficult to try to take the jersey. He’s demonstrated that he has always been attacking,” Froome said. “It’s true that this time trial will be a very important stage in this Giro. We’re all expecting Tom Dumoulin to win, but anything can happen this late in the Giro.”
Dumoulin tried to be realistic and tampered down expectations.
“Yates is so strong right now he could do a good time trial,” Dumoulin said. “Even if we do take the jersey back, we will only be back to even. He can attack in the mountains and drop me whenever he wants. For me to win the Giro, something crazy has to happen.”
Sunday was crazy enough, but it played in Yates’s favor.
Riders piled into team buses for a long, three-hour drive to Trento ahead of Monday’s rest day.
“I’ll try to get some sleep and recover for the rest of the race,” Froome said. “I already knew the Giro would be hard before coming here.”