ETNA, Sicily (AP) — Simon Yates took the overall lead of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday after the British rider finished second on stage six, just behind Mitchelton-Scott teammate Esteban Chaves on the summit of Mount Etna. Yates overtook Chaves in the final meters but sat up on the approach to the finish line and told his teammate to cross first after the Colombian had spent the whole day in the breakaway. Thibaut Pinot was third on the 164-kilometer (102-mile) route from Caltanissetta.
The Groupama-FDJ rider led Chris Froome and most of the other favorites over the line, 26 seconds behind the leading duo. “It was a crazy day with a lot of attacks going at the beginning. As Esteban was at the front with a pretty big group, it made me sit back. I could save some energy. It worked out perfectly,” Yates said. “I felt good so I took my chance to ride across. Esteban had been out all day so he deserved the win. I said to him as soon as I caught him that he could take the stage because if I had enough time then I would take the jersey.” Chaves had been out front as part of a 28-man breakaway for most of the day and attacked on the final climb with five kilometers remaining, and swiftly built a significant advantage.
Yates made his move with 1.5K remaining and surged into the lead before indicating to Chaves he should take the win. The duo hugged each other in celebration immediately after crossing the line. “It’s unbelievable,” Chaves said. “This is the best start for the Giro d’Italia. I knew we had to be up front, we had a very hard stage to Etna. I made the break with Jack (Haig), and I want to say thank you to Jack, he pulled a lot in the breakaway. In the finale I rode with Yates, I was first and he claimed the ‘maglia rosa’ (pink jersey). How unbelievable is that? I’m also in the king of the mountains jersey, it’s like a dream. Now we go to the mainland, we’re super excited, and we will keep on dreaming.”
It is a second stage win in the Giro for Chaves (after his success in 2016) — a remarkable achievement for the 28-year-old who was told he might never cycle again after a serious crash in 2013. Chaves couldn’t move his right arm for six months and had a number of operations on injuries which included fractures to his skull, collarbone, cheekbone and ribs and a punctured lung. Yates, who won the young rider classification at last year’s Tour de France, replaces Rohan Dennis in the leader’s pink jersey and has a 16-second advantage over defending champion Tom Dumoulin. Chaves is third overall, 26 seconds behind the 25-year-old Yates. Four-time Tour de France winner Froome is 1 minute, 10 seconds behind, in eighth place. The Giro heads to the Italian mainland for Friday’s seventh stage — a flat 159K (99-mile) route from Pizzo to Praia a Mare. The race ends in Rome on May 27.