Simon Yates widens maglia rosa lead on second weekend of Giro d’Italia

(Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images) /

Simon Yates consolidated his hold on the pink jersey with a definitive win on Sunday’s mountaintop finish at Gran Sasso. Where do the other favorites sit?

As the Giro d’Italia enters its second rest day, Simon Yates further locked down his hold on the maglia rosa. The British cyclist sits 32 seconds ahead of Mitchelton-Scott teammate Esteban Chaves. Yates is 38 seconds ahead of defending champion Tom Dumoulin, who currently sits in third place.

Yates first gained the maglia rosa on the first mountaintop finish of the race on Mount Etna. The final stage in Sicily played out with Chaves going up the road in a breakaway. Yates bridged the gap late in the race, distancing himself from the general classification favorites in the final two kilometers of the climb.

Yates caught up to Chaves with 600 meters to go. The Mitchelton-Scott duo gained nearly a half-minute on the climb over their competitors. Yates allowed Chaves to take the stage win as the British climber took the bigger prize.

The following day, after transporting to the mainland, the attention turned once again to the points classification contenders. On the ride from Pizzo to Praia a Mare, Sam Bennett came out with the stage win. Elia Viviani maintains a tight grip on the maglia ciclamino given to the leader of the points race, but Bennett has emerged as his closest competitor.

Then the roads once again turned skyward

The second weekend of the Giro d’Italia promised more fireworks as the roads pitched skyward. Yates, who won the white jersey as the best young rider at the 2017 Tour de France, used the climbs to consolidate his grip on the pink jersey at this year’s Giro d’Italia.

On the eighth stage on Saturday, Richard Carapaz made history when he crossed the finish line first into Montevergine di Mercogliano. The victory made Carapaz the first Ecuadorian to win a grand tour stage.

Carapaz crossed the line seven seconds ahead of all the GC favorites. In the process, he passed Chris Froome in the general classification by four seconds. Yates was in the main field right behind Carapaz, holding position against Dumoulin, Thibaut Pinot, Domenico Pozzovivo, and the rest of his challengers.

Between Yates and Chaves, Mitchelton-Scott has dictated this year’s Giro d’Italia since it shifted from the early stages in Israel to Italian soil. That trend continued on Sunday’s ninth stage. Yates finally clamped down and asserted his authority with a stage win.

The field of contenders was all together for much of the stage. Things started to finally heat up in the final few kilometers. Froome and Fabio Aru were both dropped with two kilometers to go. Domenico Pozzovivo continued to press the pace on the front, breaking the field up further. In the final kilometer, a select quintet containing Pozzovivo, Yates, Chaves, Pinot, and Carapaz was all that remained on the front.

With 100 meters to go to the line, Yates made his move. The acceleration cracked Carapaz and Pozzovivo, who could not hold onto the wheel. Chaves worked with his teammate to isolate Pinot, and Yates fended off the Frenchman in the final uphill sprint.

Where does the race stand heading into the second week?

The victory expanded the gaps in the pink jersey race significantly. Yates now looks like the odds-on favorite to win this year’s Giro d’Italia. Chaves offers a buffer between his teammate and the rest of the field, as the Colombian is 32 seconds behind Yates. If the British leader falters, Mitchelton-Scott is still in great position to keep and win the maglia rosa.

"“It’s a real dream start for us,” Mitchelton-Scott directeur sportif Matt White told Cyclingnews. “We’ve got a few easier days after this weekend but we’ve got a long way until Rome.”"

Tom Dumoulin is still in good position to defend his Giro d’Italia title. The Dutchman sits in third place, 38 seconds behind Yates in the general classification. The world time-trial champion will have the advantage of one more long race against the clock to make up any deficit from the mountains.

Thibaut Pinot, sitting seven seconds behind Dumoulin and 45 seconds behind Yates, is just off the podium in fourth place. The Frenchman is in good form and looks capable of breaking into a top-three spot over the next fortnight.

The cyclist who has seen his stock plummet most is undoubtedly Froome. The defending Tour de France and Vuelta a España champion has looked out of sorts in Italy. Froome has crashed several times and lost time left and right in the general classification. He now sits in 11th place after nine stages, two minutes and 27 seconds behind Yates.

Next: Everything you need to know about the 2018 Giro route

Racing resumes on Tuesday in Italy with the 239-kilometer run from Penne to Gualdo Tadino. The route, featuring some undulations but none of the massive climbs of the previous stages. A breakaway could form and stay away on the course, but more likely is a bunch sprint featuring the contenders in the points classification.