Simon Yates finished the stage to Zoncolan "completely empty", disappointed not to have caught Chris Froome to win the stage, but satisfied to have gained another 31 precious seconds on Tom Dumoulin, now his closest rival for the overall victory at the Giro d'Italia.
Yates looked in control for most of the Monte Zoncolan despite the twisting double-digit gradient. While Fabio Aru, Miguel Angel Lopez, Domenico Pozzovivo and then even Dumoulin slipped back, losing time, Yates pushed on, in control and focused on chasing Chris Froome all the way to the finish line.
"I'm happy with what I did. I couldn't catch Chris to win the stage but I'm happy," Yates said pragmatically.
"It was extremely difficult and I crossed the line completely empty but every climb is difficult. I think I did a good climb. I paced it, I arrived empty. From seven kilometres to three kilometres to go, it was extremely difficult, it just never eased. It's hard to make a big difference when you go 10km/h.
"I couldn't follow Chris straightaway so I rode my own tempo, from there it was whatever I had in my legs."
Dumoulin quickly rode down from the finish area with a scowl, angry to have lost time and lowered his chances and the wider expectations that he can still win the Giro d'Italia.
Yates knows he was unable to put the Dutchman to the sword on the Zoncolan and expects Dumoulin to turn the tables in Tuesday's 34.2km time trial from Trento to Rovereto.
"I'm happy I put time into him. I'm happy with what I did," Yates said when told of Dumoulin's pessimism.
"It's not enough for me to win the Giro either. The gap is not that big. It's not a lot. I fully expect him to take that back easily in the TT. We don't know if I can take back time on each climb, that's a big statement. For sure he will gain time on me very easily. So I'll keep trying."
Yates is also wary of what Chris Froome can do now, after his morale-boosting win on the Zoncolan. Yates chased after Froome for the final, never-ending four kilometres of the Zoncolan. He was within touching distance but unable to close the gap and steal Froome's glory.
Froome is 3:10 down but could become a real threat to maglia rosa if he gains a chunk of time on Tuesday against the clock.
"Chris is the same as Tom. He's going to take time very easily, he's not out of it," Yates warned.
"I don't think he was ever out of it. He was never that far behind to say he was completely gone. You don't win as many races as he does without being a great rider for sure he'll try now with a lot more confidence. I expect him to be good.
"He was good today. He went at a really good moment; it was a really strong acceleration. He didn't get a huge gap and so it felt like a drag race in the end, I just couldn't get him. But I'm happy with what I did today."
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