He arrived at the press room in a fresh pink jersey after Sunday’s stage. One Italian journalist asked if he knew about his new nickname – Sanguinaccio Volante – or Flying Black Pudding. Yates laughed comfortably, and said no. He can afford the light-hearted moments give his position.
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The 25-year-old moved further into the pink jersey lead that he gained on Mount Etna on Thursday, taking time on his rivals, both by distancing them and by the added time bonus for the stage victory.
“I was not surprised because I saw and I felt on Mount Etna already that I had very good legs,” Yates said. “But it was a very difficult stage and very long so I wasn’t 100 per cent confident before the final.”
Marco Pantani was the last rider to win on the Gran Sasso mountain deep in the Apennine Mountains that run like a spine from north to south in Italy.
Watch: Giro d’Italia stage nine highlights
Yates, twin brother and team-mate of Adam Yates who is racing in the Tour of California which starts on Sunday evening, coldly watched the lead group dwindle under the pace of his team. One by one, riders slipped away, including 2015 Vuelta a España winner Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) and, with two kilometres to go, four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky).
Yates got himself into position once it was down to only five men, including his team-mate and Mount Etna winner Esteban Chaves, and accelerated for the victory and bonus seconds with 150m to go.
“Today Domenico Pozzovivo was very strong, Thibaut Pinot was very good and Tom Dumoulin is still there. We haven’t gained a lot of time on him,” Yates added.
“Maybe Froome is suffering from his crashes or maybe he doesn’t have the form, I don’t know. I was surprised to see Fabio Aru lose time, but the Giro is a long race and they could bounce back.”
The three-week race pulls to a stop in Pescara for a rest day. Stage 10 kicks off the second week that includes summit finishes at Osimo and Monte Zoncolan.
Yates is also aware of the 34.2km time trial that starts the third week of the Giro d’Italia. The discipline is his weak point, so on days like Gran Sasso, he needs to take advantage on Froome, Dumoulin and other time trial-strong cyclists.
“Dumoulin’s still incredibly strong and very hard to gain time on,” Yates said. “I don’t know the exact amount of time, but I’ll need minutes before the time trial.
“I only have 38 seconds on him. For me that’s not enough, we’ll need to be aggressive to gain more time.”