Yates wins 9th stage to cement Giro lead, Froome loses time

GRAN SASSO, Italy (AP) Simon Yates cemented his position as overall leader of the Giro d’Italia by winning the ninth stage on Sunday but it was a bad day for British compatriot Chris Froome, who lost more than a minute in the general classification.

Yates was part of a five-man group that escaped in the final kilometers of the summit finish and the Mitchelton-Scott cyclist attacked right at the end to edge out Thibaut Pinot.

Four-time Tour de France winner Froome had been ninth – 1 minute, 10 seconds behind Yates. But the Team Sky cyclist struggled at the end of the 225-kilometer (140-mile) route from Pesco Sannita up to Gran Sasso d’Italia and is now 2:27 behind his countryman.

”I realize how big it is to win my first stage with the Maglia Rosa,” Yates said. ”That one is for the boys who rode at the front all day. It’s really nice. Since the beginning of the day we believed in the possibility of winning the stage as well as defending the Maglia Rosa.”

It looked like a cyclist from the 14-man breakaway would win with an advantage of around eight minutes heading into the penultimate climb, less than 50K from the finish. However, Astana drove a high pace at the head of the peloton to slash their advantage in half by the time they reached the final ascent of the Gran Sasso d’Italia, with 26K remaining.

Attacks started from the break and Fausto Masnada got away before he too was reeled in 2.7K from the line, setting up the final attack and victory for Yates.

Yates’ teammate Esteban Chaves was third to leapfrog defending champion Tom Dumoulin in the overall standings and move into second, 32 seconds off the pace.

Dumoulin is a further six seconds behind.

”We haven’t got so much time on (Dumoulin), 38 seconds of an advantage on him isn’t enough before the time trial,” Yates said. ”On the other hand, some guys lost time – Chris Froome, maybe it was from the crashes, maybe he’s got no form, I don’t know. I was surprised to see Fabio Aru being dropped, but it’s a long race. Maybe they can bounce back.”

It has been a difficult opening week for Froome, who had a training crash before the opening time trial, lost time in a split on stage four and injured himself again in a second crash on the final climb on Saturday.

”He was looking good the last couple of days but we have to stay optimistic. We have two more weeks coming up and hopefully we have some better days,” Team Sky coach Nicolas Portal said. ”Let’s hope that we can quickly forget this stage.”

The Giro has a second rest day before Tuesday’s 10th stage, an undulating 239K (149-mile) route from Penne to Gualdo Tadino.

The race ends in Rome on May 27.