Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) tightened his grip on the pink jersey by winning Stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia into Osimo. The Brit put his rivals to the sword with a stinging attack in the final 1.5km.
Defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) chased valiantly but was unable to catch Yates finishing second on the stage losing another two seconds – plus four more after bonuses – in the race for overall victory.
Attacking on the penultimate climb of the day Zdenek Stybar (Quick-step Floors) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Fix All) gained a gap from the peloton behind but were eventually caught in the final 1,500m by Yates who rode on to victory.
Behind, the General Classification riders crossed in ones and twos unable to keep up with Yates who is clearly the race’s strongest rider.
At 40 seconds down, Chris Froome (Team Sky) rolled across the line conceding yet more time as hopes of victory continue to fade.
What happened today
Stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia was a relatively short 156km route from Assisi to Osimo. The rolling route contained three classified climbs on course with a difficult and steep rise just before the line.
After the unexpected excitement of yesterday, the peloton was likely taking a deep breath. With the struggles of Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) early in the stage, rival teams seized an opportunity by riding hard to distance the Colombian. Eventually he lost 25 minutes.
Today, it seemed clear that the peloton would be having a much more relaxing day.
On the lead up to the day’s first climb, Passo del Termine, various riders tried their luck to make an attack stick including Katusha-Alpecin’s Alex Dowsett.
Eventually, the first few riders managed to make moves work with experience duo Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) going away. They were eventually joined by Italian trio Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF), Alex Turrin (Wilier-Triestina) and Fausto Masnada (Androni-Sidermec).
Masnada’s presence made it 10 breakaways out of 10 for Gianni Savio’s men.
The leading five eventually got their gap up to around 3 minutes 30 seconds riding into the final 90km of the stage. Although, this was short lived as the main bunch began to pull back the time.
After they rolled through the final feed of the day, the peloton again put on the pressure although the gap stabilised at around 3 minute with 58km to go.
The climb to Valico Di Pietra Rossa went uncontested by the lead five as they concentrated on managing their gap back to the peloton. Nevertheless, it was Masnada who rolled across first.
Behind, Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) took up the lion’s share of the chase with LottoNL-Jumbo stalking his wheel.
If you blinked – or went to a commercial break – you would suddenly miss 5km pass such was the pace of both the break and the peloton.
The five breakaway artists continued their civil work with all riders seemingly given equal to the cause, so much so that the gap stabilised at around the 2 minute mark as the race entered its final 33km.
At this point, the peloton also went through the home of the late Michele Scarponi, whose life was taken in a traffic accident last year. The sides of the roads were dressed in the colours of his former team Astana.
The road began to rise and spurred on by the memory of Scarponi perhaps, Sanchez pushed ahead with De Marchi and Masnada.
The leading three held the gap to 1 minute 24 seconds but it seemed a lost cause. The peloton was stretched out further than Armstrong as LottoNL-Jumbo and Lotto-Soudal set a relentless pace for Enrico Battaglin and Wellens.
With the two final kicks to the line, it was unlikely that the break would survive. A solitary minute with 15km left to go was not enough.
Uphill, the leading trio began to struggle, with De Marchi looking to be the weakest losing the wheel. Behind the GC riders began to poke out their nose with Simon Yates and Thibaut Pinot fairly visible towards the front in the final 12km.
9km remaining and the clock ticked down to under 40 seconds as Adam Hansen and Tosh Van Der Sande looked to close the gap before the finish.
6km left, the gap was 20 seconds and the GC teams were hunting them down. The pace was frantic and all was set for the stage finale.