Yates in pole position after keeping tabs on dumoulin in time trial
In terms of his chances of delivering Britain its first winner in the 109-year history of the Giro d'Italia, Simon Yates' performance in yesterday's individual time trial was just about as good as it gets.
The 25-year-old from Bury took a giant step towards securing the maglia rosa as he finished 22nd on the day, preserving the overall lead with a gap of 56 seconds.
Yates' time over the largely flat 34.2km course in Trento, in the north of Italy, was 97seconds down on the stage winner, Rohan Dennis (BMC).
Crucially, however, it was only 75 seconds down on Tom Dumoulin, Yates' nearest rival in the general classification, over whom he had held a two-minute-and-11-second lead at the start of the day.
That meant that instead of surrendering the pink jersey to the world time trial champion, as many thought he might, Yates enters the last five days of the race with a commanding buffer.
"It really changes my tactics for the coming days," Yates admitted. "I think- unfortunately for the fans - I can be a lot more defensive. We'll see. I have a bigger gap to the guys behind him as well - it's not only Tom. "
Ireland's Ryan Mullen would have had hopes of a top-five finish but after a strong start, he cramped up in the last 10km and finished 13th. The time trial is supposedly Yates' weakest discipline, but the work he has done in the wind tunnel, honing his position, has clearly paid dividends.
Yates is the overwhelming favourite now. There are still plenty of potential banana skins on the road to Rome.
Today's 155km stage from Riva del Garda to Iseo features a climb straight out of the blocks and it will be interesting to see whether any of the GC hopefuls attack, particularly given the difficulties experienced by Yates's Mitchelton-Scott team-mate Esteban Chaves the last time the race went uphill from the start. But it looks to be a day for the breakaway as the GC guys save their legs for the final three mountain stages before Sunday's ceremonial finish.
Of course, Yates could blow up on those days. This is the third week of a grand tour. Anything can happen. Friday, featuring the Cima Coppi (the highest point in the race) the 2,178m Colle delle Finestre, should be good fun, while Saturday's summit finish also sees the riders climb to 2,000m.
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