Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) won stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia as he out-sprinted breakaway companion Nico Denz (Ag2r La Mondiale) in Gualdo Tadino on a day where second place overall Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) lost 25 minutes and all hope of a high overall placing.
Clearly finding himself with bad legs coming out of the rest day, Chaves was dropped on the first climb of the day and quickly found himself three minutes behind the main peloton.
At one point Chaves’ chase group, which also included Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), came within 30 seconds of the back of the peloton, but as Team Sunweb, Team Sky, Groupama-FDJ, and LottoNL-Jumbo all continued to push on in the bunch the gap steadily went back out to six minutes, at which point Chaves called off the chase.
After this early drama, the final 40km of the race were animated by an attack by Matej Mohoric and Davide Villella (Astana), who were joined by Nico Denz after the descent from the final climb.
Mohoric had looked strong all day and continued to push on to drop Villella, before holding off Denz in the two-up sprint at the end of the day.
Meanwhile Yates finished safely in the bunch, which was led home by Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), before the long wait started for Chaves, who eventually crossed the line in a group more than 25 minutes in arrears.
How it happened
After Monday’s rest day, the Giro d’Italia organisers welcomed the peloton back to the action with the longest stage of the race: a 244km trek from Penne to Gualdo Tadino which began with a 15km climb almost straight from the gun.
With such a rude start to the stage it was no surprise to see plenty of riders warming up on turbo trainers ahead of the start, and sure enough the attacks flew from the very start with a large group of 17 riders escaping on the climb.
That group trimmed down by five by the top of the climb with Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo), Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r La Mondiale), Ben King (Dimension Data), Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani CSF), Ben Hermans and Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy), and Davide Ballerini (Androni-Sidermec) reaching the top with a lead of 1-10.
However there was also major action at the back of bunch. While sprinters such as the maglia ciclamino of Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) were unsurprisingly put into trouble on the climb, Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), the man sitting second overall, was also among those distanced.
That upping of the pace was bad news for the break which was steadily caught by the peloton with only Martin left in the lead with 150km to go, while Chaves soon found himself more than three minutes back from the bunch in a small group with, initially, Sam Bewley his only team-mate for company.
With the peloton still riding hard, Mitchelton-Scott sent two further team-mates, Chris Juul-Jensen and Svein Tuft, back to aid Chaves in his chase while Quick-Step Floors, working for Viviani, also helped in the pace-setting, but the gap continued to hover between three minutes and 3-30 as the riders made their way along the wet rolling roads on the eastern side of the Appenine mountains.
Meanwhile, at the front of the race, Tony Martin decided against a solo move for the final 135km and eased up to allow himself to be caught by the bunch.
However even as the pressure continued to be applied on the front of the bunch, the work of Mitchelton-Scott and Quick-Step Floors in the chasing group meant Chaves’ deficit steadily came down and at one point the Colombian was just 30 seconds off the back of the peloton.
Much of that time gain was thanks to the hard work of Quick-Step, but as the gap slowly went back out as the race passed the 100km to go mark, the Belgian team lost firepower and the will to chase, and at the intermediate sprint with 90km to go the gap from the bunch to the chasers was out at five minutes.
With no break up the road, the intermediate sprint was also the site of action from the GC contenders at the front of the bunch, with the unusual sight of Thibaut Pinot sat at the back of a Groupama-FDJ lead-out train as he tried to take the bonus seconds.
Unfortunately for Pinot, Yates was alert to the danger and positioned himself perfectly on the Frenchman’s wheel before jumping into the wind with 100m to go to take the three bonus seconds and extend his lead at the top of the general classification.
Third place across the line was Marco Frapporti (Androni-Sidermec), and while Pinot and Yates sat up to wait for the bunch Frapporti carried on to establish a solo break.
Frapporti worked hard to grow his lead, opening a gap of 2-30 to the bunch over the next 30km, while the Chaves group dropped further behind to more than nine minutes back.
With 40km remaining there was a flurry of action in the group as Davide Villella (Astana) attacked in an effort to bridge across to Frapporti. The Italian’s move triggered counter-attacks behind as Mohoric moved across to join him in the chase.
Their relatively fresh legs allowed Villella and Mohoric to make short work of the gap to Frapporti, joining and immediately dropping the by-now suffering Androni rider with 31km to go – shortly before the top of the final fourth category climb.
However by throughout their effort the bunch had kept a close tabs on Villella and Mohoric, and as the two leader crested the climb the peloton was only 30 seconds back down the road.
In the middle of that gap was Nico Denz (Ag2r La Mondiale) who had attacked on the wet descent and impressively managed to bridge across to the two leaders even as Mohoric took risks through the corners.
But there was action back in the bunch as best young rider Richard Carapaz (Movistar) required a bike change near the top of the descent, while Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) also punctured and had to work hard to get back on with the help of Sam Oomen and his Sunweb team car.
Thankfully for the defending champion the pace wasn’t high on the front and he was able to regain contact with the peloton with 15km to go, while the front group started to fracture as Mohoric and Denz pushed on to drop Villella while Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing) attempted to make it across.
However Henao and De Marchi were no able to make in-roads as Mohoric continued to power away with Denz in his wheel, and that duo enjoyed a one minute gap on the peloton as they went into the final five kilometres.
Mohoric led into the finishing straight opened the sprint with 200m to go. For a moment Denz was able to pull alongside, but Mohoric kicked again and crossed the line with his arms aloft for his second Grand Tour win.
34 seconds later the main bunch was led across the line by Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), the Irish rider banging his handlebars in frustration as he took third place.
The next thing to wait for was the arrival of Chaves, and the Colombian finally rolled in more than 25 minutes behind Mohoric, a result that saw him tumble down the GC to 39th place.
Giro d’Italia 2018, stage 10: Penne to Gualdo Tadino, 244km
1. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida, in 6-04-52
2. Nico Denz (Ger) Ag2r La Mondiale, at same time
3. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 34 secs
4. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
5. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
6. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Katusha-Alpecin
7. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
8. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo
9. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
10. José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin, all at same time
135. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, at 25-25
General classification after stage 10
1. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 43-42-38
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 41 secs 00:00:41
3. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 46 secs
4. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-00
5. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar, at 1-23
6. George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-36
7. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing, at 2-08
8. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana, at same time
9. Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac, at 2-28
10. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 2-30
39. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, at 25-26