More than 38 minutes had ticked by on the clock beneath the Arrivo banner when Simon Yates finally reached the final ramps of the Jafferau and inched grimly towards the finish of stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia. The dream had died three hours previously on the slopes of the Colle delle Finestre, and the final 80 kilometres of the stage must have felt akin to a nightmare from which he was trying to awake.
Yates crossed the line in 79th place on the stage in the company of his Mitchelton-Scott teammates Jack Haig, Roman Kreuziger and Mikel Nieve, some 38:51 after new race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) had passed the same point at the end of a most improbable 80-kilometre solo attack.
For two weeks, Yates had appeared resplendent in the maglia rosa, but now the garment on his shoulders was dulled by the dust of the Finestre. A scrum of television cameras enveloped the Briton at the finish, but his soigneur helped to guide him through the crowds to the tent that served as a makeshift changing room a little further along the road. Once inside, Yates stripped the maglia rosa from his shoulders for the final time on this Giro.
When Yates emerged a quarter of an hour or so later, his eyes were red, perhaps from fatigue as much as emotion, but before descending to his team bus at the foot of the mountain, he paused to put words on a most trying day.
Yates had already shown signs of fatigue when he was distanced on the final haul to Prato Nevoso on Thursday, and it was clear from the outset that he would be robustly tested by Froome, Tom Dumoulin et al. on the tappone of the Giro. The only surprise was that Yates was already in difficulty on the lower slopes of the Finestre, with 85 kilometres still to race.
“I was just really tired and extremely exhausted,” Yates said. “That’s bike racing, unfortunately. That’s it.”
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