Britain’s Simon Yates took a giant step towards winning a maiden Grand Tour after retaining the pink jersey on the Stage 16 time trial at the Giro d’Italia, won by the Australian Rohan Dennis.
BMC’s Dennis, the Australian time trial champion, took victory on a largely flat 34.2km course along the Adige valley of northern Italy in 40 minutes dead – 14 seconds quicker than Germany’s Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) and 22 seconds faster that Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).
But a gutsy ride from the race leader Yates saw the 25-year-old Mitchelton-Scott rider limit his losses to just 75 seconds to chief rival Dumoulin – leaving him with a healthy lead of 56 seconds going into the final phase of the race.
Britain’s Chris Froome (Team Sky) put in a solid effort for fifth place in a respectable – but hardly stellar, for his standards – time of 40:35. Froome’s result saw him rise to fourth place in the general classification at the expense of Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) who toiled in the drizzle to finish more than three minutes off the pace.
Dennis, narrowly beaten by Dumoulin by just two seconds in the race’s opening time trial in Jerusalem, rises from eleventh to sixth place on GC having got the better of both past and present world time trial champions, Martin and Dumoulin.
“It’s pretty good,” an ecstatic Dennis said after the first Giro stage win of his career. “Obviously I wanted to come here and win a stage and I was hoping for Israel to be that stage. But also today was a big target for me. To come here and repay the team for all their hard work and to jump back into the top ten is a big day for me.”
Stage 16: Trento to Rovereto ITT – as it happened
Prior to Tuesday’s technical race against the clock from Trento to Rovereto, it was never a question of whether Dumoulin would beat Yates but by how much.
But despite sporting the rainbow skin suit as world champion, last year’s Giro winner was unable to overturn the 2’11” deficit he held entering the stage – leaving Yates, by far the superior climber, in pole position with three summit finishes separating the riders from the final stage to Rome.
“I’m really happy,” Yates said after finishing 22nd in the race against the clock. “The first half I felt good. I had a good rhythm and my position was good but the final 10 kilometres I really died a thousand deaths.
” It’s a good gap and I’ll see what I can do. It only changes my tactics for the coming days. Unfortunately for the fans I may have to be a lot more defensive. I’m in a good position now and I really hope I can take it all the way to Rome.”
Yates leads Dumoulin by 56 seconds with Italy’s Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain Merida) trailing by 3’11” and needing to defend his place on the virtual podium from Froome.
Winner on Monte Zoncolan ahead of Yates last week, four-time Tour de France winner Froome trails his compatriot by 3’50” with Pinot now 4’19” off the pace.
Ahead of Dennis’s victory, Denmark’s Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Britain’s Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin) amd Dutchman Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) all sat in the hot seat before German powerhouse Martin, a quadruple former world TT champion, rolled back the years with an imperious display.
Only a surprisingly strong effort from Italy’s Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) came close before the 33-year-old German champion was ousted by Dennis’s near-flawless ride. Dennis, 27, was 12 seconds clear at the 12.7km intermediate check at Aldeno and six seconds ahead at the the 25.6km check following the small climb at Nogaredo.
Van Emden had to settle for fourth place at the finish while Aru raised eyebrows by slotting in between Britons Froome and Dowsett for sixth place, just 37 seconds down on Dennis (although he was later docked 20 seconds for drafting a race motorcycle).
Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (Movistar) out-performed Pinot but nevertheless dropped a few places, the former now holding a 30-second gap over the latter in the battle for the white young rider’s jersey.
While Dennis topped the podium, the day belonged to Yates who cemented his grip on the maglia rosa with five days of the 101st edition of La Corsa Rosa remaining.
Three decisive summit finishes in the Alps precede the final processional stage into Rome – but before then there’s a potential banana-skin of a stage from Riva del Garda to Iseo.
The 155km Stage 17 starts with a 10km uncategorised climb and features some rolling roads ideally suited to a breakaway – although the Quick-Step Floors team of Elia Viviani, the maglia ciclamino, will do their best to deliver the Italian to a fourth stage win that will further extend his lead in the points classification.