Mitchelton-Scott rider Simon Yates has moved closer to overall victory in the Giro d’Italia after claiming a third stage victory on Sunday.
Yates took first place in Stage 15 in Sappada and became just the fourth rider in the history of the Giro to win three stages while wearing the leader’s maglia rosa (pink jersey), joining Eddy Merckx, Gilberto Simoni and Marco Pantani in the record books.
He extended his overall lead over Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin to 2:11, while Team Sky’s Chris Froome is now out of title contention at 4:52 off the lead pace.
However, Yates is adamant that overall classification victory is not in the bag just yet, insisting that tomorrow’s [Tuesday] time trial will be another big test.
"To say I'm the favourite … I'm not sure," Yates said after the stage. "There's still the TT to come. I know I sound like a broken record, but that's because I don't know how much time I need. I gave it everything today to get as much time as possible on Tom.
"Today I knew that everyone was tired. I was extremely tired too, but I was really, really motivated to take as much time as possible. That's the advantage I had. I really felt a passion, a drive, something pushing to me to get as much time as possible. But the finale was hardest 15km of my life."
The 25-year-old Brit added that joining the above-mentioned elite club is a major achievement and something to be proud of.
"It's a real magnificent achievement. I'm really proud of that," he added.
"I arrived here to try to win the race but I didn't expect to win three stages. I was hoping for one stage and to win overall but never dreamed I'd win three stages. I'm lost for words … I'd never imagined that."
Second-placed Dumoulin appears to have thrown in the towel already, admitting that Yates is too strong for him at this point in the race.
"When he went, it was so fast, extraordinary really," Dumoulin said in regards to Yates’ breaking away from the pack with 18km of the stage left to race. "Not for a fraction of a second did I consider going with him."
He added, “"It was super, super hard. The whole day was a big fight and at the end, I had nothing left anymore, but being third after a day like that, feeling like that, I think I can be very proud. Simon Yates is just too strong for me at the moment."
The highest-placed rider from African team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is Australia's Ben O'Connor in 12th.