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The British climber was unable to initially respond when his brother, and now rival, Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) kicked off hostilities with just under 8km to go on the Col de Turini.
Race leader Primož Roglič was able to match the acceleration and the Slovenian eventually won the stage, and pushed his overall race lead out to 47 seconds over Simon Yates with a day of racing remaining.
Roglič found himself isolated from his teammates after Rohan Dennis took a long pull on the front but the Jumbo-Visma rider never looked in trouble as he responded to moves from both of the Yates brothers, Nairo Quintana and Daniel Martinez. Roglič even countered attacks on the final climb before kicking clear in the sprint with just under 200m to go.
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For Simon Yates it was a case of catching the leaders after he missed the initial surge, and then solidifying his position.
At the finish the former Vuelta a España winner said that his form was decent for this point in the year but that cracking Roglič was a tough ask given the Slovenian rider’s current condition.
Roglič had finished second twice already in Paris-Nice stages this week and has never been as low as third overall.
“There’s not much that you can do when he’s in second gear,” Yates said at the finish.
“He’s not even breathing and everyone else is panting like they’re on their deathbeds. It’s hard to do anything differently. I tried to see what I could do, and I put a few cheeky moves in but it wasn’t to be.”
“There have been some tough days back to back and it’s taken a toll on the peloton now. We have another hard day tomorrow. It’s a short hard day. I really like tomorrow, it’s a good race. It’s one of the only days in the year that I really like to get stuck into. We’ll see what I can do but it’s pretty much won already.”
Yates was asked about the strength of Roglič’s team on the final 14.9km. Roglič had riders around him for the first half of the ascent but only Dennis remained inside the final 11km. For Yates, the strength in depth at Jumbo-Vimsa was a secondary issue.
“He had guys until it really got selective,” Yates said.
“It was only when Adam [Yates] kicked it off that he was isolated and at that point it’s mano-a-mano anyway. I think that they did a good job. I feel okay but nothing special. It could have been better, it could have been worse.
“It was around where I expected to be. Martinez is right there and he’s not so far behind me, so I expect him to make a move. I don’t see myself overtaking Primož for the win, so maybe I’ll go a bit defensive.”