Giro d'Italia
Simon Yates put time into his rivals to strengthen...

Yates widens gap in Dumoulin duel

Simon Yates's quest to conquer a grand tour took a big step ahead with his pink jersey ride up the famous Monte Zoncolan pass deep in the Italian Dolomites.

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MONTE ZONCOLAN, Italy (VN) — Simon Yates’s quest to conquer a grand tour took a big step forward with his pink jersey ride up the famous Monte Zoncolan pass deep in the Italian Dolomites.

The British leader of team Mitchelton-Scott widened the gap in his duel with the 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) in one of the most anticipated climbs of the 2018 edition.

Over a short 10.1 kilometers, but on one of the hardest roads the riders face all year, Yates rode 37 seconds into a defensive Dutchman. He now sits at the top of the classification sheet with 1:24 on Dumoulin.

Only one rider, four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) moved closer to the British leader. Froome rode clear and leaped from 12th to 5th overall, but still sits at 3:10 minutes back.

“I’m happy and not happy because I really tried for the stage there, but I just couldn’t get Chris in the final,” Yates said.

“It was a very hard finish, but anytime I gain on Tom and the rest of the rivals is good for me. As I was expecting, the gaps were not massive, as I said yesterday, the gaps were quite small and they were, but I’m still happy with the gaps to Tom and the guys behind.”

Yates is not worried about the climbing stages, and there are many to come, but the 34.2-kilometer time trial on Tuesday is a concern. He wants to gain as much time as possible on his time trial-strong rivals – specifically Dumoulin and Froome – to compensate for any potential loses.

“Chris is the same as Tom. He’s going to take time out of me very easily. With him closing to three minutes, he’s not out of it.”

Simon and his twin brother Adam, are expected to lead multiple grand tours over the next 10 years. The Englishman already rode to sixth in the 2016 Vuelta a España and seventh in the 2017 Vuelta a España. He felt ready for Zoncolan, this edition’s first high mountain stages in the Alps.

“I know the climb is legendary, but it was the same as any other day. It’s not a very exciting answer for you guys,” Yates continued.

“I don’t want to sound too confident, but I am confident. This is where I excel on the climbs. I was not nervous. I was excited to start these hard stages just as Tom Dumoulin will be excited to race the time trial.”

Yates’s Australian WorldTour team has risen to the occasion to support the Giro d’Italia bid. Already in 2016, it helped Esteban Chaves to second in the Giro d’Italia.

Mikel Nieve, Roman Kreuziger, Jack Haig, and Christopher Juul Jensen shepherded Yates over the many passes in stage 14. They and Chaves, Svein Tuft, and Sam Bewley will come into action again Sunday.

“After the stage finish yesterday, everyone was talking about today, but whole weekend is very difficult. Everyone will be tired from today, so tomorrow is a very difficult day as well,” Yates said.

“A few of our guys sat up at bottom of Zoncolan to save energy for tomorrow, hopefully, that will be a big advantage.”