Yates favored to win Giro d’Italia heading into final week
As the Giro d’Italia heads into the final week, it’s not really surprising that a British rider leads the overall standings.
The surprise is that the leader is Simon Yates and not four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome.
Froome arrived at the Giro bidding to become the third person to win three Grand Tours in a row. But he crashed in training before the opening time trial, lost time in a split on Stage 4 and injured himself again in a second crash four days later.
Yates, meanwhile, has had a stellar race and became the first rider since 2003 to win three stages in the leader’s pink jersey after a fantastic solo ride on the final climb on Sunday.
Normally smiling through interviews, Yates is polite but reserved. However, after Sunday’s mammoth effort, the 25-year-old British rider struggled to hold back tears as his voice cracked with emotion.
“I don’t know why I’m a bit emotional after today. I gave everything,” said Yates, who won the young rider classification at last year’s Tour de France.
“I came to the Giro to win the race but I didn’t expect to win three stages,” he said later. “It’s a magnificent achievement. I’m lost for words. I couldn’t imagine this. But I don’t know if the advantage I have now is enough to win the Giro.”
The manner of his victory in Sunday’s 15th stage makes it hard to see anyone taking the pink jersey off his shoulders.
Yates set off on a solo attack with 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) remaining. The Mitchelton-Scott cyclist looked back after a few meters and continued to accelerate.
On a day when everyone was paying the price for the rigors of the previous day and the iconic climb up Monte Zoncolan, Yates appeared impervious to fatigue. He extended his lead over defending champion Tom Dumoulin to 2 minutes, 11 seconds. Domenico Pozzovivo remained third, 2:28 behind.
Tuesday’s individual time trial is Dumoulin’s speciality and the Dutch cyclist is expected to reduce the gap significantly over the 34.2-kilometer (21-mile) course. But the race then heads back to the high Alps and Dumoulin knows he has an almost impossible task to successfully defend his title.
“Yates is so strong right now he could do a good time trial,” Dumoulin said. “Even if we do take the jersey back, we will only be back to even. He can attack in the mountains and drop me whenever he wants. For me to win the Giro, something crazy has to happen.”
All three of Yates’ victories have been on uphill finishes. It could have even been four but Yates sportingly allowed teammate Esteban Chaves to win on the summit of Mount Etna — on the day he first took the Maglia Rosa — after the Colombian had spent the entire day in the breakaway.
There are three more summit finishes to come, including the “queen stage” up to Cervinia, which features 4,000 meters of climbing — almost all of it crammed into the final 90 kilometers of the race’s penultimate stage.
That comes immediately after an equally tough day, with four mountain passes on the route up to Bardonecchia.
Even Thursday’s flatter stage ends with a steep Category 1 climb up to Prato Nevoso.
The Giro finishes in Rome on May 27.