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Simon Yates suffers bitter blow in Giro d'Italia GC battle on Passo Giau

CORTINA DAMPEZZO ITALY MAY 24 Simon Yates of United Kingdom and Team BikeExchange Gorka Izagirre Insausti of Spain and Team Astana Premier Tech Aleksander Vlasov of Russia and Team Astana Premier Tech during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 16 a 153km stage shortened due to bad weather conditions from Sacile to Cortina dAmpezzo 1210m girodiitalia Giro on May 24 2021 in Cortina dAmpezzo Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) battles up the Passo Giau on stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Simon Yates' general classification hopes at the Giro d'Italia suffered a bitter blow on stage 16 up the Passo Giau as the Team BikeExchange leader dropped off the podium and lost 2:37 to maglia rosa Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) at the finish in Cortina d'Ampezzo.

The Briton, who lay second overall heading into the day, fell to fifth overall by the stage's finish, and now lies 4:20 down on the Colombian, who took the stage win.

“Of course I would have preferred to be close to the front and to the guys who are fighting for the podium, but that’s how it goes," said Yates. "I do my best and I will continue to do that in the coming stages and enjoy a well-earned rest day tomorrow.”

After race organisers RCS Sport cut the Passo Fedaia and Passo Pordoi from the race due to bad weather, strong work by EF Education-Nippo on the early slopes of the Passo Giau saw the peloton shatter, with Yates starting to fade midway up the climb.

He dropped for good shortly after, with Bernal jumping off the front at four kilometres from the top of the Cima Coppi – the race's highest point after the loss of the Pordoi – and 22 kilometres from the finish.

With bad weather around the Dolomites badly affecting transmission of the stage, information on the race situation was near impossible to obtain as the riders scaled the upper slopes of the Giau and descent to the finish but reports at the top showed Yates languishing as the ninth man on the road, 2:40 behind Bernal.

When asked if the cold was a factor Yates said: “For sure it makes a difference. Some riders tolerate it better than others. Normally I am okay and today I was not so cold but I think just a combination of several factors meant that I wasn’t able to be where I wanted to be.” 

After more than 20 minutes spent heading down the chilly descent to the finish, Bernal was the first to appear, finishing in a time of 4:22:41. Yates would not appear for another 2:37, finishing in 11th place a few seconds behind Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) and Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates).

"It was a difficult day, a little bit less difficult because we didn't run the full stage, and luckily, we didn't," team directeur sportif Matt White said after the stage.

"It was cold enough today and if we'd have run the full stage today – I think they made the correct decision – if we'd have gone over those two other passes in those temperatures, we'd have seen even bigger gaps. It was the best decision for the riders' safety.

"For us it didn't go as planned, but you've got to manage your bad days. It's just as important as managing your good days. There is still a lot of racing to come, we're still very close to the podium – but a well-deserved rest day tomorrow. We'll press reset and tackle our last block before Milan."

BikeExchange general manager Brent Copeland added that, despite the bad day, the race for the Giro d'Italia GC is not over.

"We honestly hoped that Simon would do better. He didn’t suffer with the cold or for hunger knock, he just had a bad day, it can happen in a three-week race. Now we’ll see what we do in the final week. 

"His Giro is not over but against such a strong Bernal like today, it’s going to be very hard. We’re riding to win but Bernal is riding well too. It’s not over and we’ll try to do something and make it a spectacular Giro."