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Yates’ Giro lead cut in half, Schachmann wins 18th stage

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PRATO NEVOSO, Italy – Simon Yates remained in the lead of the Giro d’Italia but the British rider’s advantage over closest rival Tom Dumoulin was slashed in half after the tough 18th stage on Thursday.

Yates was dropped by his rivals on the steep Category 1 climb to Prato Nevoso and he finished 28 seconds behind defending champion Dumoulin, who crossed the line with Domenico Pozzovivo and Chris Froome.

“I was just tired, that’s it. Still a few days to go. I can bounce back, no worries,” Yates said.

Maximilian Schachmann of Germany won from a breakaway to claim his first victory in a Grand Tour.

Schachmann attacked heading into the final section of the climb, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Ruben Plaza and 16 ahead of Mattia Cattaneo.

The rest of the breakaway, which escaped 16 kilometers into the mainly flat 196-kilometer (122-mile) route from Abbiategrasso finished more than a minute off the pace.

“The final kilometers were really, really hard,” said Schachmann, who rides for Quick-Step Floors. “I knew I had a good chance from the breakaway. I tried to play it safe, to not attack too early. It was really hard, we are already on stage 18 so no one has fresh legs anymore.”

Yates’ lead was cut to 28 seconds heading into the final three days of the Giro, which includes two brutal days in the Alps before the procession to Rome.

“I always said if I have the legs then I will keep on trying,” Dumoulin said. “I had the legs today and I tried and it worked. Finally, after two and a half weeks.”

Pozzovivo remained third but was 2:43 behind Yates, with Froome a further 39 seconds behind.

Froome arrived at the Giro bidding to become the third person to win three Grand Tours in a row but the four-time Tour de France champion 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.

“It was quite a good day today,” Froome said in Italian. “This is the first of three consecutive stages which will be very hard. We saw for the first time Simon not at 100 percent. That surprised me as until now he has been fantastic.

“After the fall at the start I didn’t feel 100 percent but each day I felt better and now I’m quite good.”

There are four mountain passes on the route up to Bardonecchia on Friday, followed by Saturday’s “queen stage” up to Cervinia.

The Giro finishes in Rome on Sunday.

Giro d’Italia to start in Hungary next year

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Giro d’Italia will start in Hungary next year.

The prelude stage will take place in Budapest, followed by two further stages on Hungarian soil.

Giro d’Italia organizers made the announcement on Tuesday at the Italian Cultural Institute in Budapest.

It will be the Grand Tour’s 14th start outside of Italy, with the most recent being in Israel last year.

This year’s Giro d’Italia will begin in Bologna on May 11 and conclude in Verona on June 2.

Gilbert beats Politt to win Paris-Roubaix

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ROUBAIX, France — Veteran cyclist Philippe Gilbert beat German rider Nils Politt right at the end of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix race to win it for the first time.

Gilbert strategically placed himself behind the 24-year-old Politt, and then attacked him down the left to win by about a length after nearly six hours of riding. Belgian rider Yves Lampaert finished in third.

The race is one of cycling’s five high-profile classics, along with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia. The 36-year-old Gilbert, a former world road race champion, has won all except Milan-San Remo.

“I still have this dream to win all them. Little by little I’m getting there,” an elated Gilbert said afterward. “Politt’s very courageous. In the end the best rider won, and thankfully it was me.”

Last year’s Paris-Roubaix winner Peter Sagan joined Gilbert and Politt near the front with about 20 kilometers left. But Sagan dropped off, leaving Gilbert and Politt to contest victory as they reached the Roubaix velodrome in northern France.

Paris-Roubaix is known as the Queen of the Classics because it is the most prestigious of the five, which are otherwise known as “monuments” of cycling.

But the grueling and dangerous 257-kilometer trek is also known as the “Hell of the North,” because of its treacherous profile including more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) of cobblestones spread out over 29 sectors.

“A lot of people said cobblestones aren’t for me. But I’ve won Tour of Flanders and now I’ve won here,” Gilbert said. “I rode a good race tactically.”

Belgian cyclist Tiesj Benoot crashed into the back of a Jumbo-Visma team car near the end of Sunday’s race, smashing the back window completely. He was taken to hospital but his injuries were not immediately known.

Last year’s Paris-Roubaix was overshadowed by the death of Belgian rider Michael Goolaerts, following a crash.