Tom Dumoulin slashed Simon Yates’ overall lead in the Giro d’Italia to within a minute after finishing third in the stage 16 individual time trial, but the British rider did enough to retain the pink jersey and stay in control of the race.
Australian national champion Rohan Dennis powered to victory in Rovereto, clocking exactly 40 minutes over the 34km route south of the Italian Alps.
Dumoulin, the reigning time trial world champion who is attempting to defend his Giro crown, was the penultimate of the 161 riders down the ramp in Trento with only the race leader Yates to follow, and despite a committed effort finished 22 seconds behind Dennis’s mark.
The diminutive Yates was out of his natural comfort zone perched atop his huge time trial bike, but the 25-year-old put in another impressive display to limit the damage and retain his overall lead by 56 seconds after finishing 22nd with a time of 41min 37sec.
“I had a good rhythm, I felt OK, I felt like I was going well,” said Yates after the stage. ”I wasn’t losing so much time. The final 10km I thought I was dying a thousand deaths but I managed not to lose too much time.
“[Retaining the Maglia Rosa] really changes my tactics for the coming days. Unfortunately for the fans I can be a lot more defensive. It’s a good gap, and I’ll see what I can do.”
The four-time world time trial champion Tony Martin set the early running for the leading contenders to chase, clocking 40min 14sec to take the hotseat and give himself hope of claiming a first Giro stage of his career.
Some afternoon drizzle slowed what began as a rapid route through the valleys towards Rovereto, but the conditions failed to stop the powerful Dennis from usurping Martin in the standings.
It was left to the cluster of general classification podium contenders to hunt down Dennis’s time, with mixed results. France’s Thibaut Pinot struggled badly, as did Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez and the Kiwi George Bennett, while the Italian Domenico Pozzovivo, who began the day third overall, also lost significant time.
Chris Froome failed to trouble Dennis’s lead finishing 35 seconds back in fifth place, but the Team Sky rider significantly enhanced his chances of a podium finish in Rome after the struggles of others in the top 10, moving up from seventh to fourth overall.
Dumoulin came in third when he must have hoped for more, and Yates finished soon afterwards to conclude stage 16 having giving up much of his overnight lead of 2min 11sec, but done just enough to retain the Maglia Rosa ahead of four stages which will decide the destination of this Giro d’Italia.
Overall standings after stage 16
- Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 65:57:37
- Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:00:56
- Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:03:11
- Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:03:50
- Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:04:19
- Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:05:04
- Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:05:37
- Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:06:02
- Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team 0:06:07
- George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:07:01