Little was seen of the GC Giro d'Italia favourites on Friday's tricky uphill finale at Terme Lugiane on Friday, but a brief counter-attack by Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) was one of the few exceptions to the rule.
Yates briefly clipped off the front of a strung-out peloton in response to a move by former World Champion Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac). Sixth on the line and second in the main bunch of some 20 riders behind the Canadian as the peloton shattered in the rollercoaster run-in, Yates remains third overall, ten seconds down on leader Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors).
On a day with such a technical finale, Yates argued afterwards that the outcome was never going to be certain, and he had to settle for what he could take. In this case, the Briton produced more evidence of strong form at the end of a tough 200 kilometre stage, and he retains a solid placing overall, too.
"I'm not disappointed really, with a stage like this it's always a bit of a gamble whether the sprinters can get up there, or whether it's climbers or punchier riders," Yates told a small group of reporters at the finish line. "I was feeling pretty good at the end there, but the break stayed away, so it is what it is.
"Nobody wanted to chase in a lot of teams, it was only Cannondale that were keen on doing that and I think Michael Woods went for it - at least, he was the first from our group over the line, so it would have been worth it for them," Yates pointed out. "It was just one of those days."
Speaking on the team website, sports director Matt White added that Orica-Scott had opted for a conservative approach throughout the day. "Today was too hard for Caleb [Ewan, team sprinter] and we need to focus on our efforts across the full three weeks with Adam."
The uphill finish had left the out-and-out sprinters out of the running, and Yates argued that with such a long stage, too, "if you're working all day for a gamble, you're just wasting bullets there and at the end of the day, it mightn't even come off." There was no point, then, in doing much more than saving energy for most of the day, and then in his case, briefly testing the water as close to the finale as possible. The big attacks will have to wait for another day for now.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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