It was a mixed day for Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) on the queen stage of the Giro d'Italia. The 24-year-old rode himself back into the top 10 with a solid ride over the twin ascents of the Passo dello Stelvio, but there was no sign of weakness in his chief rival for the white jersey, Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), with whom he finished along with others in the top 10.
Yates has had to show resilience since the infamous motorbike crash on stage 9 threw his GC hopes into disarray, turning a fight for the top five – and possibly the podium – into a slog for the top 10 and the maglia bianca.
He moved from 11th into 10th in Bormio but that was at the expense of Andrey Amador, who is sacrificing his position for Nairo Quintana, and the gap to Jungels, in theory, the weakest climber in the top 10, remains at 2:25.
"It was pretty tough. On the long climbs, I sometimes find them quite hard. I prefer 20-30 minute climbs, and today we were talking 45 minutes to an hour," said Yates in a team video. "But all in all I only lost 1:35 to Nibali. For a lot of guys it was one of the hardest days on the bike in a while, so, all in all, it was a good day."
Orica-Scott directeur sportif Matt White agreed that the nature of the long, high-altitude climbs didn't suit his leader, and nor did the way the other teams and riders approached them. "Today's climbs were perhaps not the perfect type of climbs for him to be too aggressive but there is still a lot of climbing to go. The next three stages finish uphill," said White.
"Today wasn't an overly aggressive day. The climbs were long, but the pace wasn't explosive enough to drop the bigger, stronger time trial guys. We will keep trying. The climbs on Wednesday's stage 17 are perhaps better suited to Yates' aggressive style of riding, but it remains to be seen how open an affair it turns to be from a GC perspective."
There is no letting up in the mountains, and the peloton will face two more gruelling days in the mountains. Stage 17 sends the riders almost immediately into climbing mode with an ascent to Aprica. The Passo del Tonale follows, before a more undulating ride and an uphill drag to the finish in Canazei. It's nowhere near as brutal as the previous day's stage, but Yates is expecting it to be business as usual for the general classification contenders.
"Same again tomorrow," said Yates. "Similar distance, little bit less climbing, but it's still going to be on for the GC guys."