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Mitchelton-Scott still confident with Yates in Giro’s pink jersey

Andrew Hood / Updated
Simon Yates led the Giro by 41 seconds entering Wednesday's stage 11. Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

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Simon Yates says he’s ready to stand alone against the entire peloton following Tuesday’s disastrous day for Mitchelton-Scott teammate Esteban Chaves.

Instead of defending the pink jersey with his flanks protected on the GC board by Chaves, Yates will now ride as the solitary team leader after the Colombian plummeted out of contention by losing 25 minutes.

“I’d prefer he’d still be there, so we could play more cards and tactics in the final,” Yates said. “I’m confident that I’m going well and I have a great team to support me, but I know it won’t be easy.”

Mitchelton-Scott will try to regroup following Tuesday’s unexpected disaster. The Giro’s longest stage spelled doom for the team’s enviable position of having first and second on GC going into the second and most difficult part of the corsa rosa.

Chaves lost contact on the day’s opening 20 kilometers during a frenetic start over a second-category climb. The team put four men to try to help Chaves chase back, and he came within about one minute of regaining contact at the feed zone. The top GC teams, however, poured it on and broke the elastic. Rather than waste valuable energy, a resigned Chaves and the others let the front group ride away in order to save their legs to defend what was not lost.

“I have a love-hate relationship with the Giro. I had just won a stage a few days ago and now I lost everything,” Chaves said. “We don’t have each other to play off, but we still have a strong team. Our strategy might change, but our final goal doesn’t. We will pull our shoes on again tomorrow and get back to work.”

Mitchelton-Scott tried to put a brave face on what was a bleak reality. Without Chaves as a factor on GC, the team loses its tactical advantage over its main rivals.

With both Chaves and Yates at the top of the leaderboard, the team was able to use its two leaders to play off each other and put their rivals on the defensive. Without Chaves as a threat, Yates’s rivals can now focus all their artillery singularly on him.

Chaves’s time losses also eliminate any chance of a rivalry within the team, although that’s a problem Mitchelton-Scott would have preferred to have. The team will now rally around Yates in a bid to win the first grand tour in franchise history.

Sport director Matt White said the team’s goals have not changed, but its tactics will.

“Nothing changes — we’re still trying to win the Giro,” White said. “Esteban’s chances for GC are gone, which means I’ve got one very handy helper for Simon when it matters. We’re only back to the same square as every other team now.”

On the same day Chaves lost hope, Yates bolstered his slender lead after taking a three-second time bonus to expand his advantage to 41 seconds.

The 25-year-old Yates knows he will need every tick of the second hand if he hopes to fend off the likes of Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) or Chris Froome (Sky), who is still lurking in the top 10.

“I’m not scared of the third week — I’m scared of the time trial,” said Yates, referring to the 34.2km test against the clock on stage 16. “I know I’ll lose some time there.”

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