GIRO’18 Stage 9: Yates Pretty In Pink!

Race Report: Simon Yates is in a different class at the moment and he capped a perfect first week with a stage win. It’s been a horror week for Froome and he lost a huge amount of time after being dropped inside the final 2km. Does Yates have enough time on Tom Dumoulin before the big TT and that super hard final week?

A large group went clear early in the day and it was a rare good day for the Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec team as they took maximum points on the two climbs prior to the finish and very nearly had a stage winner in Fausto Mansada. The real drama though was saved for the final 4km as first Fabio Aru and then Chris Froome fell off the back of the GC group. Pinot and Chaves were the best of the rest and they crossed in the same time as Yates, Chaves was able to move up to second on GC and although Pinot stayed in fourth, he’s taken back time on Dumoulin. The last rider on GC within one minute of Yates is Pozzovivo whilst everyone else has been left behind to varying degrees. Both Froome and Aru fall out of the top ten after a ropey day for both of them.

Lastly, as good as Yates has been, on Tuesday 22nd of May, there’s a virtually pan flat 34.2km time trial. The Brit will probably need another two minutes on Dumoulin to stay in pink after that.

The Giro has a penchant for sticking very long stages through the mountains into their race design, and the riders won’t be overly pleased to see the 180km mark tick by and know that they still have 49km and all of the major difficulties left to come. The first 100km are rolling but nothing too concerning for most of the peloton, that will change with the 9km Roccaraso climb which features sections of 12%. It’s a hard climb but at the summit there’s 70km of pretty easy riding until the really hard part of the stage. The finale takes the riders from 382m to the high point, and finish, at 2,135m. The first difficulty is the Calascio climb, it’s 14.9km long but the gradient is very consistent and, despite looking like a wall on the profile, we’re going no steeper than 10% and virtually below 7% for the entire effort. There’s a very small descent at the top of Calascio but there’s barely any road after that where you won’t need to pedal. The climb of Gran Sasso d’Italia is only 4km but there’s only one 500m section which drops below 7% and we’re maxing out at 13%.

In short, this stage is a little bit like a Formula One race, it’s overly long and all the action is crammed into a small section of the race but what action! The rest day tomorrow should lure out more attacks than we normally might expect as well, adding to the drama.

Big Day Out
With the weather very pleasant for a day in the mountains, it was time for the break to go clear. And it was a big old break that went, spending time ahead of the peloton today were; Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Fausto Masnada & Davide Ballerini (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Mickael Cherel (AG2R-La Mondiale), Manuele Boaro & Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida), Simone Andreeta (Bardiani-CSF), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tim Wellens (Lotto FixAll), Hugh Carthy (Education First-Drapac), Maxim Belkov (Katusha-Alpecin), Gianluca Brambilla and Laurent Didier (Trek-Segafredo) and Alex Turrin (Willier Triestina). The peloton were happy with the make up of the break and their gap ballooned out beyond the seven minute mark as Mitchelton-Scott did the work on the front of the peloton.

The race settled into a rhythm, albeit a very quick rhythm as Mitchelton-Scott hammered along on the front with hipster favorite, Svein Tuft, doing most of the work. The speed continued to the foot of the first climb before easing off slightly so that the less accomplished climbers in the Australian squad could make it over in one piece. Up in the front, the mountain points were being fought for between Masnada, Ballerini and Berhane. Masnada dropped his chain near the summit and was pushed over the top by Ballerini to take maximum mountain points. Under the UCIs extensive and frequently unenforced rulebook, that’s not allowed, and Berhane was given the top spot with Ballerini dropped to second and Masnada erased from the points. That brought the riders onto the long descent which would eventually take them to the foot of the final climbs.

Mitchelton-Scott had started with two riders on the front but that had gone up to three on the other side of the climb before going up to four with 70km left to go. At times the peloton was stretched out in one long line but the gap wasn’t going in the right direction for the Australians and it was now over the eight minute mark. Simon Yates wouldn’t be concerned about anyone in the break but there were a number of team mates who could be useful later on when the road cranked skywards.

As the break started the final climbs the gap was 8.21 over a peloton who now had more and more teams leading the chase. Astana were now leading and they were finally beginning to close the gap it was now barely seven minutes as the proper climbing kicked in.

Let the Games Begin
The Astana pace was very high and it was relentlessly closing the break’s gap. It was also throwing riders out the back although at this point, none of the contenders were in any difficulty. In the break, Laurent Didier had been doing loads of work on the front of the break to try and keep the gap but he was the first to go pop and he was drifting back to the peloton.

Manuele Boaro had been very active on the climb but he didn’t have it at the top and Masanda was the first to the summit again – this time taking the points. When the peloton followed over, the gap was just a snip over four minutes and the Astana chain was still largely in tact.

The break had stayed together on the climb up but it was now fracturing on the uncategorized climb towards the foot of the Grand Sasso. There were now just eight leaders; Cherel, Brambilla, Masnada, Boaro, Visconti, and Carthy with 22.5km left. Finally they had slowed the peloton’s advance and the gap was now 3:34.

With 19km left, the Mitchelton-Scott team hit the front and the gap was very quickly cut to less than three minutes. The break were fracturing as well as Masanda took flight. The scenery was beautiful as the race just kept going up through the stunning green pastures. Masanda was looking very strong but he was now being chased by Boaro as Visconti sat on the back of the larger chasing group.The climb was gradually getting steeper and steeper but the gap from the peloton to the front was 2.30 with 11.5km left to ride – it was advantage break. In the pink jersey group, Astana had numbers as did Sky who hadn’t yet been seen on the front. It was looking good for Froome though as he had plenty of support around and the roads were dry at this stage of the race.

Masanda wasn’t looking like being caught by the rest of the break but his gap to the Yates group was barely two minutes now that meant that the gap between Masanda and the group of Visconti was virtually a full minute and Boaro wasn’t making any inroads. With 7km left to ride, the fate of Masanda was in the hands of the GC group, if they rode his lead would very quickly collapse on the exceptionally steep finale.

Hugh Carthy was the first of the chasers to hit out and only Cherel and Visconti could follow, it was game over for Brambilla who couldn’t follow the pace and dropped back towards the peloton who were closing fast. Carthy caught Boaro but his gap was just 30 seconds to the peloton. The Brit was flying though and he left Boaro in his wake as the road continued to get steeper. Carthy had to close a minute in 4.5km, possible but only if Masanda really blew up. More concerning was Astana’s drive from behind which meant that just 1.15 separated Masanda and the Yates group.

The Astana pace making had brought back Carthy and Masanda was now in their sights with a lead of less than a minute. It was also removing team mates for both Froome and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) – Froome had just one team mate and Dumoulin was isolated. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was in the middle of the group but he was looking comfortable as his team went back to setting the pace. It was enough to end the hopes of Masanda, the brave Italian was visible with 3km left.

It was bad for Italy, Masanda was caught but Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) was also kicked off the back with Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data). The speed didn’t stop though and the lead group was now only around 15. Froome was the last but one rider in the group and he was clearly suffering. Meanwhile, Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF) had hit the front but his gap was tiny. The big news was from further back and Froome was gone. Sergio Henao (Sky) was sent back to help out but the Brit was hurting.

The pace slowed at the front and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) took up the pace making but Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) was the next to push on. Simon Yates had let a gap open but he closed it with ease and now the main favorites were looking around at each other. Ciccone was the next one to hit the front but he couldn’t get a gap as he took them through the 1km left to go mark. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) was the next to go and he was pulling a group of three with him; Pinot, Yates and Chaves. But Richard Carapaz (Movistar) was closing the gap, it was going to be a battle between these five. Yates had been having a quiet day but it wasn’t a quiet finish, he burst through and only Pinot could finish but the Frenchman couldn’t match the Brit and Yates punched his chest as he hit the line. Pinot and Chaves finished in the same time but it was another nail in the coffin for the other GC contenders. Tom Dumoulin lost a handful of time but he won’t be too concerned with the TT still to come. The biggest loser was Froome, who handed over more than a minute to Yates and Aru who continues to look very shaky and lost a similar amount of time to Froome but doesn’t have time trial ability to fall back on.

Stage winner and overall leader, Simon Yates, (Mitchelton-Scott): “I realize how big it is to win my first stage with the Maglia Rosa. That one is for the boys who rode at the front all day. It’s really nice. Since the beginning of the day we believed in the possibility of winning the stage as well as defending the Maglia Rosa.”

Giro d’Italia Stage 9 Result:
1. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott in 5:54:13
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
3. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott
4. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 0:04
5. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar
6. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:10
7. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo at 0:12
8. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb
9. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana
10. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Bardiani-CSF at 0:24
11. Ben O’Connor (Aus) Dimension Data at 0:26
12. Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 0:36
13. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:38
14. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana at 0:52
15. Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar
16. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data at 1:00
17. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 1:02
18. Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
19. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
20. Sam Oomen (Ned) Sunweb
21. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC
22. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott
23. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 1:07
24. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 1:14
25. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 1:17.

Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 9:
1. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott in 37:37:15
2. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott at 0:32
3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb at 0:38
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 0:45
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 0:57
6. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar at 1:20
7. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:33
8. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC at 2:05
9. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana
10. Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 2:25
11. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 2:27
12. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe at 2:34
13. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana
14. Ben O’Connor (Aus) Dimension Data at 2:36
15. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
16. Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar at 2:46
17. Sam Oomen (Ned) Sunweb at 2:54
18. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 3:14
19. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors at 3:37
20. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 4:12
21. José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin at 4:32
22. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott at 5:09
23. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data at 5:44
24. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 5:49
25. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 5:56.

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