Race leader Simon Yates won an uphill mountain finish to claim the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Sunday, as fellow Briton Chris Froome struggled.
Mitchelton rider Yates, wearing the pink jersey, crossed just ahead of France’s Thibaut Pinto and Colombian Esteban Chaves at 2,135 metres altitude.
The race included a gruelling 26.5km final climb to the snowcapped Campo Imperatore, where Benito Mussolini was imprisoned in 1943.
Froome was the big loser of the day along with Italian champion Fabio Aru, as the pair fell behind with two kilometres to go.
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome lost over a minute on his rivals, as Yates claimed his first stage win on the Giro, three days after letting teammate Chaves take victory on Mount Etna.
Yates extends his overall lead to 32 seconds on Chaves with defending champion Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands dropping one place to third at 38 sec.
Pinot accelerated with 1.5km to go and was followed by a small group including Yates, Chaves and Ricard Carapaz who jostled for victory heading towards the line.
The 25-year-old Yates is competing in his first Giro d’Italia, and will spend Monday’s rest day in the region of Pescara, 100km from Gran Sasso in the leader’s pink jersey.
The Norwegian goes into the tour in fine form having picked up his first win in UAE colours at Eschborn-Frankfurt.
He is supported by the UAE national champion, Yousif Mirza who is also going through somewhat of a purple patch, after a series of victories in the UAE and Asia, as well as picking up a recent UAE sporting recognition award.
Joining the duo will be teammates: Anass Ait El Abdia, Sven Erik Bystrom, Filippo Ganna, Kristijan Durasek and Edward Ravasi.
Kristoff said: “I hope to take at least one stage win like I did in 2016. I am well-trained and I feel ready to tackle the tour head on. I hope that I’m able to manage the jet-lag well, but it’ll be the same for all the riders coming from Europe.”
The 2018 Tour of California has thrown up an extremely competitive line-up, with the seven-day race being billed as the start of preparations for this year’s Tour de France.
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) May 11, 2018
Stage one will certainly suit the sprinters amongst the peloton, whilst Stage two could give some indication as to whom should be considered for the overall General Classification (GC), given the gruelling 12km climb to the summit finish on Gibraltar Road.
Italy’s Enrico Battaglin, of the Lotto NL team, won the fifth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday after a 153km race from Agrigento to Santa Ninfa in Sicily.
Australia’s Rohan Dennis (BMC) retained the overall leader’s pink jersey on the second of three days on the Mediterranean island and on the eve of a tough sixth stage on the slopes of Mount Etna.
Battaglin dominated a sprint finish with compatriot Giovanni Visconti and Portugal’s Jose Goncalves, who finished second and third respectively.
It was the third Giro stage win for 28-year-old Battaglin, a specialist on uphill finishes, after 2013 and 2014.