Giro leader Simon Yates gains 3 seconds but his team struggles

Struggling Froome clinging to Giro d'Italia hope

Yates picked up three more seconds on the defending champion Tom Dumoulin by taking bonuses from the intermediate sprint, but his Mitchelton-Scott team-mate Esteban Chaves dropped from second to 39th, losing 25 minutes on innocuous terrain and claiming cryptically after the stage: "We've still got to understand my problems".

"I have to thank the team for everything they did to try to bridge the gap, but with all the other teams working against us, we had to call it and save our legs for the bigger picture". But this was a long and ferocious race.

"I've got a hard relationship with Italy; it's love and hate". I first thought Esteban Chaves would be able to come back but it was a really insane stage and I m very disappointed for him as I know he s worked very hard for this.

Additionally, any future attacks by Chaves - Yates' Mitchelton-Scott teammate - will no longer have to be respected as a threat by the title contenders, leaving the Australian team without a powerful potential tactic to employ. "I know I ll lose some time there".

Going into Tuesday's stage, they were in the enviable position of occupying the top two positions in the overall standings, meaning tactically they would be able to play two cards in the pink jersey race. Groupama-FDJ's Thibaut Pinot (France) is in third.

It could be a fruitful basket, with Yates extending his lead to 41 seconds after taking bonus seconds at an intermediate sprint point, and he - and Bennett - almost made further gains in a tense descent near the end of the stage.

Solo attempts by German Tony Martin and Marco Frapporti of Italy proved futile until a late escape by Slovene Mohoric and German Denz stuck.

Matej Mohoric of Bahrain-Merida holds off AG2R's Nico Denz in a two-man sprint for the line. That's why I tried to attack him before. I wasn't convinced I'd win the sprint against Nico Denz. "I'm not very good in a sprint from a slow speed so I launched and I increased my speed as much as I could".

"Our main goal remains to help (Domenico) Pozzovivo for the best overall ranking possible". Mohoric finished 34 seconds ahead of the main bunch, which led by Irish sprinter Sam Bennett of Bora-Hansgrohe.

Another hilly stage is scheduled for Wednesday with a 156-kilometer leg from Assisi to Osimo that concludes with a short but steep climb.

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