Giro d’Italia leader Simon Yates' loss of 28 seconds to defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) on the road to Prato Nervoso on Thursday now leaves the Mitchelton-Scott leader just 28 seconds ahead of the Dutchman overall, with three stages of the race remaining.
While Yates battles to net Mitchelton-Scott the Giro win in Italy – which would be the first Grand Tour victory for an Australian team – directeur sportif Matt White has made moves to reassure both fans and indeed the squad that it should be a case of business as usual in the mountains on Friday and Saturday before the race ends with a stage for the sprinters in Rome on Sunday.
"Simon's a pure climber, and that was pretty flat and fast today in the final, so it's not ideal," said White at the finish. "But these next two days are real Alpine climbs and they fall more into Simon's category."
Yates has been helped considerably during the Giro by teammate, and roommate during this race, Jack Haig. The 24-year-old from Bendigo has been a key domestique for the Briton in the mountains, and is expected to again play a major role for Yates on the climbs on Friday and Saturday, having been given permission to take things a little easier during Thursday’s stage in readiness for what is still to come.
Over at Dimension Data, meanwhile, 22-year-old Ben O’Connor, who hails from Perth, is sitting pretty in 12th place overall, with designs on a top 10 finish in Rome on Sunday.
O’Connor has ridden beyond his years at this year’s Giro, eclipsing team leader Louis Meintjes early in the race. And while the South African would subsequently quit the race after Tuesday’s time trial, suffering from flu-like symptoms, O’Connor has enjoyed the support of his teammates and continues to look for a good GC finish.
"Today seemed to go OK," O’Connor said in a team press release following stage 18. "It was pretty straightforward with just the big climb at the finish. The boys were really good today in making sure I was at the front when the climb started.
"It was a climb where the run-in could have been very chaotic. It wasn’t as hectic, though, as I think everyone is very wary now. You could see it by the way we GC guys raced up the climb. I did have some issues today, but I managed to keep myself calm and hold on as best I could and keep my 12th spot. In the end, it was a successful day."
O’Connor finished the stage just 12 seconds behind Yates, and both Mitchelton-Scott and Dimension Data go into Friday’s 19th stage knowing that there’s everything still to play for.
As for Adam Hansen, riding for Lotto Fix All, and in the process of racking up his 20th Grand Tour finish, having ridden every Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana since the Vuelta in 2011, it will soon be time for a bit of a rest.
The 37-year-old Queenslander is currently a very respectable 58th overall, and looks set to complete yet another three-week race, but says that this could be his last for now – at least until the Vuelta at the end of August.
"l'll do this Giro but then I want to change things around and go for some more results for myself," said Hansen. "I’m going to take a break and then freshen up, hopefully, over the summer. I want to see how doing that will affect my season."