GUALDO TADINO, Italy – Overall leader Simon Yates gained three bonus seconds in the 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday but it was a difficult day for his Mitchelton-Scott team as Esteban Chaves dropped out of contention.
Slovenian rider Matej Mohoric of the Bahrain-Merida team edged Nico Denz of AG2R in a two-man sprint to win the stage while all of the other leaders finished safely in the main pack, 34 seconds behind.
Chaves had entered the day in second place overall but dropped behind on an early climb in the rolling 244-kilometer (152-mile) stage from Penne to Gualdo Tadino in Umbria, which was the race’s longest.
Several teammates spent precious energy trying fruitlessly to escort Chaves back to the main pack.
The Colombian finished more than 25 minutes behind.
“I would prefer he’d still be there, so we could play more cards and tactics,” Yates said.
Mitchelton team director Matthew White said Chaves has been struggling with throat and allergy problems.
“Now all of our energy will turn to looking out for Simon and protecting the maglia rosa (pink jersey),” White said.
Yates won an intermediate sprint and now leads defending champion Tom Dumoulin by 41 seconds with Thibaut Pinot up to third, 46 seconds behind.
“I’m not scared of the third week; I’m scared of the time trial. I know I’ll lose some time there,” Yates said, looking ahead to the 34-kilometer individual race against the clock in Stage 16.
“That’s why I gained three seconds in an intermediate sprint today. If I keep gaining here and there I’ll be happy.”
Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome moved up one spot to 10th, 2:30 back.
Wet roads in the finale made for treacherous conditions, causing punctures for Dumoulin and Richard Carapaz, who is fifth overall and leads the young rider classification. Both made it back to the main pack.
Mohoric was part of an earlier breakaway before getting away for good in the latter part of the stage.
Before the sprint, Mohoric glanced over his shoulder to check on Denz but the German never passed him and Mohoric won in slightly more than six hours.
Mohoric thanked his team, which is centered around Domenico Pozzovivo in fourth overall, for letting him go for the victory.
“I had already circled this stage before the Giro started,” Mohoric said. “I felt good all day and I’m really pleased that I took advantage of the opportunity.”
Irish rider Sam Bennett won a mass sprint to place third, 34 seconds behind.
The lengthy stage was a brutal wake-up call after the race’s second rest day, especially with two early climbs and constant rolling terrain along the rest of the route.
The route passed by the site of the Rigopiano avalanche, which killed 29 hotel guests and staff last year. Four children and five adults were pulled alive from the snow and debris days after the avalanche.
Another hilly stage is scheduled for Wednesday with a 156-kilometer leg from Assisi to Osimo that concludes with a short but steep climb.
Then after a couple of milder stages, the race heats up again with a climb up Monte Zoncolan on Saturday and a grueling leg through the Dolomite Range on Sunday. The race ends in Rome on May 27.
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