Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scott has his second stage win of this year’s Giro d’Italia. The maglia rosa of this year’s race took the win ahead of defending champion Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb and BORA-Hansgrohe’s Davide Formolo. George Bennett lost a few seconds to Yates and a couple of others, but maintained his 6th place overall.
Despite being a relatively short 156km of racing between Assisi and Osimo, stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia would have the GC challengers on edge. The final five kilometres featured two short but frightfully steep ascents that hit gradients of 16% in places. The day began with an electric pace being set as riders tried and failed to get into the break of the day. It took a good chunk of time for a group to finally go clear, but eventually Alessandro De Marchi of BMC Racing and Luis Leon Sanchez broke clear.
Progressively the gap to the peloton grew, and so too did the numbers in the break as they were joined first by Fausto Masnada of Androni-Sidermec-Bottecchia, then by Mirco Maestri of Bardiani-CSF and finally by Alex Turin of Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia. Mitchelton-Scott led the chase, and were aided by LottoNL-Jumbo and Lotto Fix All, keeping the break at around 3.25mins with just under 100km of racing remaining.
Trek-Segafredo were another team to lend their support to the peloton which steadily brought the peloton towards the breakaway. With 70km to go the gap had come down to just under 2.30mins and despite the break moving their lead out to 3 minutes again; it was only a brief delay of the inevitable. With 40km remaining the gap came down to just over 2 minutes and proceeded to steadily fall from there.
On the run in towards 30km a number of other teams began to show serious interest in the peloton as the break’s lead dwindled down to under 2 minutes. Team Sky and Groupama-FDJ were primarily involved in the lift in tempo. George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo was briefly interrupted by a puncture, but he was quickly back up and running and resumed his position in the peloton.
The breakaway had ridden well together, but the challenge of the short but steep kick to the intermediate sprint spelled the end of Mirco Maestri and Alex Turin in the breakaway. A gap to the two riders quickly emerged, moving out to over 40 seconds swiftly. At 15km to go the gap to the break dipped below 1 minute and it was clear that it was very nearly game over for the break.
Groupama-FDJ took over the pace setting as the kilometres ticked away, while Katusha-Alpecin also lent their assistance along with Trek-Segafredo once again. Also around and about the front of the peloton were riders from BORA-Hansgrohe, and none other than Esteban Chaves. The Colombian who had a disastrous day yesterday was back and playing the role of domestique for Simon Yates.
At 6km to go the gap was down to 18 seconds as Bahrain-Merida became the next team to assert themselves. All the while Simon Yates in the maglia rosa was visible no more than 10-15 riders back. The pace in the peloton was hot and it needed to be, as riders prepared themselves for the upcoming cobbled climb which would doubtless tear the race up. At 5km to go the catch was made to the break and no sooner had they passed through 5km to go than the cobbles hit and Zdenek Stybar of Quick-Step Floors and Tim Wellens of Lotto Fix All went on the attack.
It was a powerful combination who quickly gapped the rest of the field in a tactically smart move. Behind them a small group of riders, including the maglia rosa and George Bennett. At 3km to go the gap to the two leaders was 10 seconds, a small but significant gap. It would all come down to the final climb and how well Stybar and Wellens could tackle the final climb. Crucially though, the descent towards the final climb saw a split in the GC contenders, with Chris Froome again caught out on the wrong side of that split.
Jack Haig was on the right side of the split though, and he pushed the pace in the GC group before teammate Yates made a big attack to get on board with Tim Wellens; who had dropped Stybar. No sooner had Yates caught Wellens than he left him behind. Bennett dug deep to try and keep pace with Tom Dumoulin and Domenico Pozzovivo who went after him, but steadily the road opened up.
Dumoulin persisted in his pursuit of the maglia rosa, but Yates was pedalling a furious tempo. Through the final couple of tight turns Yates hit the cobbles for the final time, with Dumoulin steadily pegging back the gap. Dumoulin hadn’t done enough though, and Yates continued to dig deep to try and stay clear.
The Brit finally crested the summit of the cobbled climb and time trilled to the stage win 2 seconds ahead of Dumoulin. Davide Formolo finished third at 5 seconds with Domenico Pozzovivo the next of the big GC challengers to arrive home at 8 seconds with Thibaut Pinot in tow. Fabio Aru and Richard Carapaz finished just ahead of George Bennett; with the Kiwi claiming 12th place.
Bennett finished 7 seconds ahead of Miguel Angel Lopez and 17 seconds ahead of Chris Froome; who lost further time on GC and dropped to 12th overall. Bennett’s result sees him continue to hold 6th overall with no change in the top 8. Bennett is now 2.09mins behind Yates, with Rohan Dennis now in 7th place behind him at 2.36mins.