Following a brief return to form on Saturday's stage to the top of Monte Zoncolan, Chris Froome's chance of winning the Giro d'Italia took a hammering on Sunday when he cracked en route to the finish at Sappada and lost a minute and a half to race leader Simon Yates.
The latter attacked his rivals and sailed in to what was his third stage win in the event. He reached the line 41 seconds ahead of Miguel Ángel López (Astana Pro Team), defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), while Froome trailed in 17th. Dumoulin is a strong time-triallist and with a long 34.2km race against the clock on Tuesday, Yates was determined to try to increase his buffer over the Dutchman.
He duly did so, although it remains to be seen if his two-minute 11-second advantage over Dumoulin will be sufficient to prevent the Dutchman wresting the race leader’s pink jersey from his shoulders in the time trial. Pozzovivo is third overall, two minutes and 28 seconds back, with Froome now a distant four minutes and 52 seconds down.
Sappada is famous in Irish cycling history as being the finish on the day that Stephen Roche defied his team-mate Roberto Visentini and the orders of their Carrera team in 1987, attacking to retake the pink jersey. He went on to win the race. Thirty-one years later the stage was a disappointing one for Roche's son Nicolas, who withdrew from the race after being below par for much of the Giro.
“I haven’t been feeling good on the bike for the last few days and today the sensations were worse and worse to the point where I wasn’t able to continue,” he said. “I’m disappointed to withdraw, particularly as this is the first time I have ever abandoned a Grand Tour in the 19 that I have done.”
The other two Irish riders in the race, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ryan Mullen (Trek-Segafredo) finished in a group more than 35 minutes back. Bennett is a sprint specialist while Mullen is best at time trials, and their principal aim is to pace themselves on the mountain stages and save power for the days where they can contend.
Mullen will aim for a strong showing in Tuesday’s time trial, while Bennett remains second overall in the points standings and will hope to add to his two stage wins before the race ends in Rome on Sunday. Before then, the riders will have some respite on Monday with the Giro’s third rest day.