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MOUNT ETNA, Italy (VN) — Grand tour star Chris Froome (Sky) is happy just to ride into top shape in the next two weeks of the Giro d’Italia after finishing the Mount Etna stage with the other favorites Thursday.
Froome finished stage 6 with top rival and 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). New race leader Simon Yates and his Mitchelton-Scott teammate Esteban Chaves, the stage winner, gained time. The four-time Tour de France champion, though, was there with his rivals after 15 kilometers climbing up the famous Mount Etna volcano.
“I think all in all just happy to tick this day off and looking forward to reaching mainland Italy and carrying on with the Giro,” said Froome.
Yates’s time gain saw him move into the famous maglia rosa. Chaves also added time. Froome, however, finished the cold and misty volcanic stage with his rivals.
The day wasn’t worry-free, however. At times on the 15-kilometer ascent, Froome was gapped from the others.
“How is Chris? It was the first summit finish, so it was a question mark, but we knew he was there in the Tour of the Alps with [Domenico] Pozzovivo and [Thibaut] Pinot. We were faithful. We know that he’s growing and improving, so it’s fine,” sports director Dario Cioni explained.
“If he was feeling well and had a chance to attack, but the chance wasn’t there. He knows how to manage it, he knows where the finish line is, so he managed it at his own pace then to follow every attack.”
“I’m very happy. Chris managed his effort very well,” added team boss David Brailsford. “This is what we wanted, Chris finished with the lead guys.
“The crash on day one definitely affected him, you could see it affected him. But we take today’s performance and slowly but surely build on it. Chris has a lot of room for improvement.”
“It’s more of a gap than we expected, but then today was an important day not to lose time on the majority of riders, so that was good,” Cioni said.
“The training crash bothered him, yeah. In the time trial you no longer have that confidence in the curves and in a short technical ride like that, you lose time that way.”
Froome is building slowly to the race’s second half with Italy’s famous high passes in the country’s north. The race crosses to the mainland tonight from Sicily and then must travel over the next week to the north.
“I was happy just to be in the main group of favorites with Tom Dumoulin and the other guys,” Froome continued. “My objective is to build through this race and be at my best in the third week, and I’m still on track for that.”
The race’s next summit finish is Saturday to Montevirgine. They continue to work their way north, but the first big climbs will not appear until the following Saturday to Monte Zoncolan. Froome should have time to improve.