Simon Yates wins ninth stage to extend his lead

AFP, GRAN SASSO D’ITALIA, Italy

Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 16

Simon Yates on Sunday won an uphill mountain finish to claim the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia and extend his overall race lead as fellow Briton Chris Froome struggled.

Mitchelton-Scott rider Yates, wearing the leader’s maglia rosa, crossed just ahead of France’s Thibaut Pinot of FDJ and Colombian teammate Esteban Chaves at 2,135m altitude.

The race included a grueling 26.5km final climb to the snowcapped Campo Imperatore, where Benito Mussolini was imprisoned in 1943.

“I realize how big it is to win my first stage with the pink jersey,” said Yates, who became the first Briton since Mark Cavendish in 2013 to win a stage and only the second after Robert Millar in 1987 on top of a mountain.

“That one is for the boys who rode at the front all day,” Yates said. “It’s really nice. Since the beginning of the day we believed in the possibility of winning the stage as well as defending the pink jersey.”

Four-time Tour de France winner Froome of Team Sky was the big loser of the day along with Italian champion Fabio Aru of UAE Team Emirates, as the pair fell behind with 2km to go.

Froome lost more than a minute on his rivals, as Yates rode to his first stage win on the Giro, three days after letting teammate Chaves take victory on Mount Etna.

Froome finished 23rd on the day, 67 seconds behind the leading trio, and is trailing Yates by 2 minutes, 27 seconds in the general classification.

“It’s not what we hoped as [Froome] was looking good the last couple of days, but we need to stay optimistic,” Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said. “There are two long weeks coming up, so hopefully we will have better days. Nothing is done. They all deserve a good rest day and hopefully we can quickly forget this stage. In general, when you talk to the riders you can tell everyone wants to win. They won’t switch off, for sure this isn’t great news, but they will keep fighting.”

Yates extended his overall lead to 32 seconds over Chaves, with Dutch defending champion Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb dropping one place to third at 38 seconds.