Yates gets the better of Dumoulin
What made the build-up to this time trial so intriguing was the uncertainty regarding how well we should expect Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) to go, and how much time he would lose to Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), with predictions varying from as little as under one minute to as much as over three minutes.
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The former proved closest to reality, as Yates lost a total of 1-15 to his rival, meaning he still holds a lead of 56 seconds in the overall classification.
He might not have looked quite so smooth as Dumoulin, having to check himself on one corner and rocking side to side as he tired towards the finish, but Yates produced a hell of a lot of power despite his small frame.
Yates can breathe a huge sigh of relief now the one stage he feared the most is out the way. As he revealed in post-stage interviews, he can now afford to adjust his strategy to ride more defensively, and leave the onus on the others to attack him.
With three mountains stages to go there’s still much work to be done, but he could be just five days away from winning the Giro d’Italia.
Dumoulin needs a re-think
There wasn’t a lot wrong with Dumoulin’s performance, but the 1-15 he gained over Yates was only just over half of what he needed to gain the maglia rosa.
If he still harbours ambitions for the jersey, Dumoulin will have to think outside the box for ways that he can gain time. 56 seconds is a slender lead, but the way Yates has dropped the Dutchman so regularly in the mountains means that simply waiting for the summit finishes will likely result simply in more time lost.
Instead, Dumoulin and his Sunweb team need to think of how to ambush, isolate and distance Yates early on in the remaining stages, perhaps working in tandem with other teams to gang up on him.
It’s a big ask and a difficult, risky manoeuvre to pull-off, especially given the strength of Yates’ Mitchelton-Scott line-up. But having already won the Giro last year, a mere podium finish would not mean so much for Dumoulin, meaning he’s likely to take the chance of losing it in order to have a shot of retaining his title.
Rohan Dennis wins the stage
Rohan Dennis (BMC) had already made up for the disappointment of missing out by a mere two seconds on the opening day time trial by grabbing hold of the pink jersey for the next four days.
Today, however, his Giro got even better, as he stormed to the stage win a whole 14 seconds ahead of an on-form Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), and 22 seconds against the man who defied him two weeks ago, Tom Dumoulin.
The resurgent display also considerably boosted his chances for a high GC placing, as he bounced from eleventh to sixth overall, leapfrogging riders like Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Richard Carapaz (Movistar) who have made him suffer in the mountains.
His stated aim to ride for GC was largely dismissed once he started being regularly dropped in the climbs, but the Australian has managed to just about hang in there without losing too much time. The final week mountain stages will be his biggest test yet, but a top ten finish remains in sight.
Froome brings the podium within sight
Without quite looking at his very best still, Froome’s fifth-place finish on the stage was enough to move him up from seventh to fourth on the GC.
Most significantly of all, he now lies just 39 seconds behind Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) in third place, bringing a podium finish very much within reach – even if the 2-54 he needs on Dumoulin and 3-50 on Yates looks beyond him. For all the problems he has endured, that would surely be a satisfactory result for Froome.
Dislodging Pozzovivo won’t be easy, however. The little Italian limited his losses well today, indicative of the great form he’s been on all race. So far the only time he has lost to Froome on road stages were the 23 seconds ceded on the Zoncolan, meaning Froome will likely have to replicate that top form if he’s to usurp him on GC.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) hopes for a podium finish took a severe blow today, however. Despite having appeared to have improved him time trialling a couple of years ago, this was one of the worst of his career – he finished 66th, 3-19 down on Dennis and slower than the whole rest of the top ten, leaving him with over a minute to make up on Pozzovivo.
Aru produces a bizarrely quick time
The biggest surprise of the day was undoubtedly Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates)’s ride.
The Italian looked down and out on his favoured terrain a couple of days ago, when he lost the best part of 20 minutes and even looked ready to abandon.
But today he produced what was probably the best time trial of his career (excluding hilly ones), crossing the line with the sixth quickest time – ahead of former world champion Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), European champion Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Fix All) and Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin), who briefly lead in the clubhouse with his best performance in a Grand Tour time trial since winning a stage at the 2013 Giro.
The general sense of bewilderment was reflected in Tony Martin’s bemused expression and shake of the head, who was in the hot seat as Aru reached the finish, following a throwback ride to his glory days which ultimately saw him claim second place.
Part of Aru’s performance can be explained by drafting, or so the commissaires decided by docking him 20 seconds (which means he officially finished eighth rather than sixth), yet this notwithstanding it was still a baffling return to form.
He’s still way to far down to have any impact on the GC, but if his form from today holsa he could seriously animate the final mountains stages in search of stage wins. Watch this space.