Several different battles played out in the spectacular Dolomites of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday's stage 18. Tejay van Garderen beat Mikel Landa to win the stage after a long breakaway, Tom Dumoulin made accusations of collusion between Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana, and, largely out of sight of the television cameras, Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac) and Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) were locked in an equally intense and dramatic fight for the white jersey of best young rider.
Jungels has worn the white jersey since stage 4 to Mount Etna and seemed stronger than his rivals as he fought to stay in the top 10 overall. He perhaps fought too hard to stay with the overall contenders on the 137km stage through the Dolomites and cracked on the Passo Gardena when Nibali and Quintana attacked in turn. Yates and Orica-Scott saw their chance and Ruben Plaza dropped back from the breakaway to drag Yates down the descent. The young Briton then dug deep on the climb to the finish, as Jungels fought to limit his losses to Yates and Formolo.
At the finish, Jungels lost 2:43 to Yates and 2:07 to Formolo, with Yates taking the white jersey by just 28 seconds. Formolo is now a close third in the young rider classification at 53 seconds, creating a tight three-way fight for the prestigious jersey.
"I had a bad day and the legs didn't feel so good on the first three climbs, so I was dropped from the main group," Jungels admitted. "I had to chase alone for the last 50 kilometres of the stage, where I began feeling better, but overall it's a very disappointing day for me."
Yates hoping to gain more time before final time trial
Adam Yates was naturally much happier to have fought back after crashing hard and losing time on the Blockhaus on stage 9. He refused to give hope of a good overall result and has moved up to ninth – 7:06 down on Dumoulin – as well as pulling on the white jersey. He is showing the same determination and fighting spirit that helped him finish fourth overall and win the white jersey at the 2016 Tour de France.
"I was riding for both the stage and the white jersey at the beginning of the stage. We didn't win the stage but we took the white jersey," Yates, clad in his new maglia bianca, said in the mixed zone.
While Jungels held the pink jersey between stages 4 and 8, Yates raced in the white jersey but it was never his by right, and he had to wait to stage 18 to finally call it his own. Now he intends to keep it all the way to Milan, perhaps extending his lead on Friday's mountain finish to Piancavallo and Asiago, so that Jungels does not take it back in the final time trial.
"Whether I can hold it all the way to Milan, we'll see. We've still got the time trial at the end and Bob's a better time trialist than me but we'll take it day by day," Yates said.
"The white jersey has always been the goal but I lost quite a bit of time when I crashed. It's not about just white; it's about moving up the GC too. But Jungels has shown that he can climb really well and I've only been able to put time into him today."
"Now we've got two more mountains stages to go. I don't want to put a number on how much time I'll lose in the tine trial it but I definitely want to take some more time first."
"This is only my second time riding the GC (in a Grand Tour). There's no pressure from the team but there's quite a lot of pressure from myself to pull something out of the bag. I lost time in the crash and I've been losing bits here and there but we're in a good position now."