Team Sky’s star leaped from 12th overall to fifth overall on stage 14. With his attack at 4.1 kilometres, he held off a chasing Yates and gained time back in the overall.
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Yates continues to lead in the pink jersey with 1-24 minutes on Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), but four-time Tour de France champion Froome is moving closer. He gained 10 seconds on Yates and more on other rivals much further down the climb tucked in Italy’s north-eastern region Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
“Chris is the same as Tom. He’s going to take time out of me very easily in the time trial on Tuesday,” Yates said. “Closing to three minutes today, he’s not out of it.”
Yates is on a quest to win his first Grand Tour after placing seventh in the 2017 Tour de France and sixth in the 2016 Vuelta a España. He’s up against seasoned stars with Dumoulin claiming the 2017 Giro d’Italia trophy and Froome already having won multiple Tour de France titles and the Vuelta.
“As for racing with Chris, it’s the same as when I’ve raced him before,” Yates continued. “I knew he would be difficult to catch on the Monte Zoncolan. It felt like a drag race in the end, I just couldn’t get him, but I am happy with what I did.”
What Yates did was put time into all of his rivals except Froome on the most feared climb in cycling. He moved closer to accomplishing his quest, lifting the Giro’s spiral trophy when the race ends in Rome next Sunday.
“It was the same as any other day. It’s not very exciting for you guys. How can you approach it any differently?” Yates said of the Monte Zoncolan, not sweating its infamous ramps of 22 per cent.
“I don’t want to sound too confident, but I am confident. This is where I excel, on the climbs. I was not nervous. I was excited to start these hard stages, just as Tom Dumoulin will be excited to race the time trial on Tuesday.”
Yates’ rivals steadily clawed their way up the pass. Rides like Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Miguel Angel López (Astana) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) sit further back on the pink classification sheets than when Yates looked on Friday evening.
“Happy and not happy because I really tried for the stage there, but I just couldn’t get Chris in the final. It was a very hard finish, but anytime I gain on Tom and the rest of the rivals is good for me,” continued Yates.
“As I was expecting, the gaps were not massive, as I said yesterday, the gaps were quit small and they were, but I’m still happy with the gaps to Tom and the guys behind.”