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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.

Bernal lifts injury-hit Team INEOS with Tour de Suisse title

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ULRICHEN, Switzerland — In a rough month for Team INEOS, Egan Bernal lifted the British squad with overall victory Sunday in the nine-day Tour de Suisse.

Bernal came to Switzerland to support team leader Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour de France champion, who crashed out in a nasty fall on Tuesday.

Thomas’ accident followed teammate and four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome suffering season-ending injuries in a training crash in France.

Bernal is still slated to start the Tour de France on July 6 as Thomas’ top aide, though this confirmed race-winning potential after his Paris-Nice title in March.

The 22-year-old Colombian finished 19 seconds ahead of Rohan Dennis overall after they finished Sunday’s stage together, 1 minute, 2 seconds behind Hugh Carthy’s solo breakaway on snow-lined roads.

Bernal was 3:04 clear overall of third-place Patrick Konrad.

Tour director says race won’t be same without Froome

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PARIS — The Tour de France just won’t be the same without four-time champion Chris Froome in the field, race director Christian Prudhomme told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Froome was injured last week in a crash in France that left him with multiple fractures. He let go of his handlebars to blow his nose and hit a wall at speed.

“Clearly, it changes things,” Prudhomme said. “The Tour de France with Chris Froome and without is not the same thing. He has been the central character since, we’ll say, 2013.

“So other scenarios are going to open up.”

Defending champion Geraint Thomas was also hurt in a crash this week at the Tour de Suisse. The 33-year-old Welshman required stitches above his eye but he is still expecting to defend his title.

“Luckily I’m all ok,” Thomas wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “It just means I’ll need some big training rides next week now.”

The setback cast further uncertainty over Team INEOS, formerly known as Team Sky, which has won six of the last seven Tours. Bradley Wiggins won in 2012, while Froome took the title 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and Thomas last year.

But with Froome out and Thomas recovering, that could open the door for 22-year-old teammate Egan Bernal.

“Of course, Dave Brailsford’s team will weigh on the Tour de France, as in previous years. But will it do so to such an extent and in the same way?” Prudhomme asked. “I imagine that he, Dave Brailsford, is asking himself lots of questions, too.

“Who will be the leader? The evidence, logic, dictates it will be Geraint Thomas, of course,” Prudhomme said. “But will that still be the case after his crash? There are lots of question marks. But we know that Egan Bernal is ready, it seems to me.”

After an impressive win at the Paris-Nice race in March, the Colombian then also crashed in training in May. He broke his collarbone, ruling him out of the Giro d’Italia. But he is racing at the Tour de Suisse and Prudhomme expects that the mountainous terrain of the Tour will play to Bernal’s climbing strengths. This year’s Tour will be the first with three stages that finish on summits above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), where the thin air will sap riders.

“We’re going very high this year,” Prudhomme said. “But nearly all of us believe that the Colombians won’t be less strong at 2,000 meters and Bernal, obviously, is Colombian.

“At first glance, on paper, it cannot be unfavorable for Bernal,” he added. “He is super-talented in the mountains. He can attack from far out.”

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