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Giro d'Italia Stage 15: Yates extends race lead with third stage victory

Joe Robinson
20 May 2018

Dumoulin loses time to Yates as Englishman takes yet another stage victory to Sappada

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) laid down his biggest marker yet for the pink jersey at the 2018 Giro d'Italia taking stage victory number three to Sappada and extending his lead in the pink jersey.

Defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) will have sore shoulders tonight as the remaining General Classification men leaned on the Dutchman for the chase to the final before eventually dropping him towards the finish. 

Dumoulin fought valiantly to rejoin this group finishing 40 seconds adrift of Yates.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) paying for his efforts on Monte Zoncolan, went backwards after going forwards eventually losing 1 minute 30 seconds to stage winner and race leader Yates. 

Yates used the penultimate climb of Costalissoio to launch a double attack which was enough to shrug off Dumoulin and co providing the foundations to his win. Extending his lead on the descent, Yates then climbed to Sappada quicker than the rest finishing with a final gap of 41 seconds.

The race now head's into its final week. After tomorrow's rest day the peloton will tackle the 34km individual time trial, a rolling route to Rovereto. Dumoulin will attempt to regain as much time while Yates will do his best to defend pink.

The stage how it unfolded

Th final stage before the final rest day, stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia took the riders on a mountainous 176km from Tolmezzo to Sappada for the race's only true day in the Dolomites. 

It was primed for attacks as current race leader Yates entered the day knowing that he needed to take more time out of defending champion Dumoulin and even the resurgent Froome. 

Yesterday on Monte Zoncolan, Yates rode well but only distanced Dumoulin by 38 seconds while Froome took the stage and silenced his critics, that admittedly included me.

Predictably, the stage began at atomic pace, 41km/h for the first hour to be precise. This made establishing a breakaway almost impossible and no doubt caused worry among the General Classification men.

Thankfully, the pace subsided eventually for a second allowing a large breakaway to escape. There was no real threats to the GC involved yet again Gianni Savio's Androni-Gicatolli Sidermec were represented for the 14th consecutive stage. Hopefully their persistence pays off with a stage win.

For some reason, EF-Drapac were not happy with this large break and began to set a hard tempo with the lanky Lancastrian Hugh Carthy and Joe Dombrowski. Third in the wheels was Canadian Michaels Woods. 

On the ascent of a rainy Passo Tre Croci, the break ahead splintered with a small group of Dayer Quintana (Movistar), AG2R La Mondiale duo Mikel Cherel and Nico Denz and Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF) - who is riding the race of his life - gapped the rest and pushed ahead.

Behind, Woods attacked with 70km remaining in an attempt the bridge to the leaders. He clearly fancied himself on today's finish but clearly preferred his chances of winning alone rather than surrounded by a group of hungry GC contenders.

He pushed on but failed to make the bridge before the summit of Tre Croci which did not bode well for the former runner whose descending skills leave little to be desired. He was joined by Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF) and Antonio Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).

Ahead, Denz and Cherel decided to push on in a two-up team time trial from Ciccone and Quintana while viewers of Eurosport were treated to the commentary of Austrian Dimension-Data rider Bernie Eisal. 

The final 30km promised to be an exciting one. Three climbs, one after another including an uphill finish to the line. Ahead the AG2R duo and Ciccone pushed on with their 1 minute 34 seconds buffer to the peloton while behind Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) looked to be in all kinds of trouble, dropping from the group of favourites reducing his speed to snail pace. Was this the end of the Sardinian's Giro?

Team Sunweb then began to assume control turning the screw a little. This saw Froome become slightly isolated as his team failed to withstand the pace. Young Sam Oomen really pressed on in service of Dumoulin although race leader Yates, flanked by Jack Haig and Mikel Nieve seemed pretty comfortable.

To the relief of Froome, Sergio Henao and Wout Poels were equal to the pace offering him two teammates at his disposal. Poels even had the legs to push towards the front and join countryman Oomen. Ahead, Denz and Ciccone held a slender 26 second advantage that was undoubtedly going to disappear on the penultimate climb.

Denz then pushed on from Ciccone on a particularly tricky descent with 19km remaining although at points he looked to be close to the limit taking every corner as wide as possible. 

On the penultimate climb, Costalissoio, Yates ordered pace from Haig which caused a split among the GC riders. Froome found himself distanced from the pink jersey and Dumoulin while George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) placed a small attack. 

Henao began to pace Froome and closed the gap but not quick enough. Yates had attacked with Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) in his wheel. Dumoulin had to chase but did not have the initial burst to close the Bury man down. Froome, potentially paying for his Zoncolan efforts, struggled to produce a pace to catch back on.

Yates started to play with Dumoulin, allowing him to chase back on before attacking again. It seemed cruel as the Dumoulin stuck to his guns and rode to power. 17km left to go and Yates's gap grew to 16 seconds then 17. 

Unfortunately for Yates, Dumoulin had temporary allies in Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) who began to chase. This alliance was then torn up as they began to argue over who should chase. 

Yates then hit the final descent with a 21 second gap. Alone, he could choose his own lines weaving his way through the Dolomites, sweeping left to right. Rather surprisingly, the chase allowed Pinot to lead the descent.

This was probably why Yates then extended his lead up to 27 seconds with 11km left. Dumoulin began to spin the imaginary decks pleading with his companions to chase Yates whose lead extended to 34 seconds. Why should they help chase? He is the best time trialist after all.

The final climb saw Yates extend his lead to 50 seconds while Dumoulin was forced into the pace setting. It all became to much for the defending champion who went pop, dropping away from his fellow GC rivals.