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Grand Tour organizers reduce number of riders for 2017

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PARIS — Grand Tour organizers have decided to reduce the number of riders at their races in a move aimed at improving safety and increasing competition.

The Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta organizers said in a joint statement Friday that the number of riders per team will decrease to eight, instead of the nine currently at their three-week races.

The decision taken by ASO – which organizes the Tour de France and Vuelta – RCS Sport and one-day races organizers Flanders Classics will come into effect for the 2017 season. It will also see a reduction of riders at the other races they organize, with teams reduced to seven riders instead of eight.

Following a meeting of the international association of cycling race organizers, they said they want to improve safety by reducing traffic on roads and make it more difficult for a team to dominate a race. The numbers of teams per race will remain unchanged.

The organizers believe that reducing the number of riders will help open up the races so that they are less controlled. Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome’s Sky Team has been the dominant team in the peloton recently, locking down the race in the mountains and reducing suspense at cycling’s biggest race.

“This decision responds to two-pronged objective: the first being to improve the safety conditions for the riders with a smaller peloton on roads equipped with more and more street furniture,” the organizers said in their statement. “The second, which is a fortunate consequence of the first, is to make it more difficult to dominate a race as well as enhance conditions for events to offer better racing for cycling fans.”

Yates maintains Giro lead, Dennis wins 16th stage time trial

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ROVERETO, Italy – Simon Yates is still in control of the Giro d’Italia after the British rider limited his losses to closest rival Tom Dumoulin in the individual time trial on Tuesday.

Dumoulin was more than two minutes behind Yates heading into the 16th stage and, as a time trial specialist, it was seen as his best chance of taking the pink jersey from the Mitchelton-Scott cyclist.

However, Yates still leads Dumoulin by 56 seconds heading into the final five stages.

“I’m really happy,” Yates said shortly after crossing the line. “I really gave everything there. I was dying in the final 10 kilometers. I thought I would lose a lot more. I’m really happy. I’m really surprised I’ve kept the jersey, I’ll be honest.”

Domenico Pozzovivo remained third but slipped 3:11 behind Yates.

Rohan Dennis of Australia won the 34-kilometer (21-mile) time trial from Trento to Rovereto, beating Tony Martin by 14 seconds. Dumoulin was third, 22 seconds behind the BMC Racing Team cyclist.

“I had a good TT but Rohan Dennis and Tony Martin were better,” said Dumoulin, who rides for Team Sunweb. “I wasn’t strong enough. Yates also had a very good day so all in all it’s disappointing for us but it is what it is. I gave everything today … I’m keeping my head up and we’ll fight until Rome.”

Dennis had lost the opening time trial in Israel by two seconds to Dumoulin.

“It’s pretty good to beat time-trialists like Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin,” Dennis said. “I came to the Giro to win a stage. I was hoping for Jerusalem to be that one. This stage was a big target for me as well. To win here and jump back in the top 10 is a big day for me.”

Chris Froome finished fifth, 35 seconds behind Dennis, to move into fourth overall. The four-time Tour de France champion is 3:50 behind Yates but only 39 seconds behind Pozzovivo and a spot on the podium.

Froome arrived at the Giro bidding to become the third person to win three Grand Tours in a row but he crashed in training before the opening time trial, lost time in a split on stage four and injured himself again in a second crash four days later.

“I gave everything on the road today,” Froome said in Italian. “I’m happy because I think I jumped a few places in the standings. For the (general classification), it will be difficult. I’m far from Yates and he’s been very, very strong until now. I feel better every day. My legs are better especially after yesterday’s rest day. It’s not over yet. I’ll give everything and we’ll see whether I’ll finish third or fifth or wherever.”

The 17th stage on Wednesday is a hilly 155-kilometer ride from Riva del Garda to Iseo, through the wine region of Franciacorta, before three grueling days in the Alps.

Yates’ three stage wins have come on uphill finishes after thrilling attacks.

“There are still some difficult stages to come, I’ll look to defend now, unfortunately for the fans,” said Yates. “I hope I don’t have some bad days, something disastrous happens or anything and I hope to wear it into Rome.”

The Giro ends in Rome on Sunday.

Yates wins 15th stage for 3rd win, extends Giro lead

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SAPPADA, Italy – Simon Yates made it a hat trick of wins in the Giro d’Italia on the 15th stage and the British rider consolidated his overall lead on Sunday as the race heads into its final week.

Yates set off on a solo attack with 17 kilometers remaining of the 176-kilometer (109-mile) route through the Dolomites from Tolmezzo to Sappada, after another grueling leg which had seen the riders almost continuously climbing and descending.

Miguel Angel Lopez edged out Tom Dumoulin for second to lead a group of five cyclists over the line, 41 seconds behind Yates.

Yates is clearly on a different level to his rivals and it is hard to see anyone managing to wrestle the leader’s pink jersey off the Mitchelton-Scott cyclist.

Yates extended his lead over defending champion Dumoulin to 2 minutes, 11 seconds. Domenico Pozzovivo remained third, 2:28 behind.

Monday sees the Giro’s third and final rest day before the individual time trial, which is Dumoulin’s speciality.

The Giro ends in Rome on May 27.