Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) coughed hard and deep as he tried to recover from his huge effort to finish with Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) on the Prato Nevoso finish at the end of the Giro d'Italia's stage 18, but he was happy to have gained a few seconds on Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and show that he can more than hold his own in the fight for the final podium places.
Pozzovivo leads the Italian hopes in the Giro d'Italia after the demise of Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates). He is performing better after joining Bahrain-Merida for the 2018 season and being given a clear leadership role while teammate Vincenzo Nibali focuses on the Tour de France.
Pozzovivo, like Dumoulin and Froome, gained 28 seconds on Yates and now knows the Briton could be vulnerable in the terrible final two mountain stages to Bardonecchia and Cervinia. While Froome could suffer another bad day, and Dumoulin was arguably more suited to today’s finish, the two multi-climb stages, with steep gradients and mountain finishes, are Pozzovivo's favoured terrain. He is the pure climber in the fight for the podium and so, while he lacks the palmares of Froome and Dumoulin, he is as dangerous as both of them.
"Their attacks hurt the maglia rosa, but I just held their wheels, especially when Froome kicked, I wasn't at my limit. That's why I pushed on hard right to the finish," Pozzovivo said confidently before descending to his bus parked below the finish area.
"As everyone knows, my goal is to defend my third place overall but perhaps also try for something extra, including a stage win. I'm looking forward to the big mountain stages. I'm not sure if everyone else is."