Yates beats Thomas to win stage and take Tirreno lead

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SARNANO SASSOTETTO, Italy (AP) — British rider Simon Yates won the toughest stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico race Friday and claimed the overall lead.

Former Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas crossed second in the fifth stage and remained in contention.

Yates carried out a solo attack on the concluding 14.2-kilometer (8.8-mile) ascent to Sarnano, which had an average gradient of nearly 6% and a maximum of 12%.

Yates, who rides for the Mitchelton-Scott team, finished 35 seconds ahead of Thomas, who sprinted past third-place finisher Rafal Majka.

”It was already a fast pace. I saw an opportunity and I really took it,” Yates said. ”I just went full gas.”

In the overall standings, Yates moved 16 seconds ahead of Majka, with Thomas third, 39 seconds behind.

Previous leader Michael Woods fell behind on the climb to Sarnano.

After two less challenging stages Saturday and Sunday, the race concludes with a 10-kilometer individual time trial in San Benedetto Del Tronto on Monday that is suited for Thomas.

”With time trial the last day, I need a buffer,” Yates said. ”So it was a good day.”

Thomas, the 2018 Tour champion, was dropped from Ineos’ Tour team this year because he did not want to ride in support of defending champion Egan Bernal.

Chris Froome, the four-time Tour champion who is still riding himself back into shape, finished nearly a half-hour behind.

Thomas will lead Ineos at the Giro d’Italia in October and then Froome will be the team leader for the Spanish Vuelta.

The 202-kilometer (126-mile) leg started in Norcia, which is known for its salami and prosciutto production.

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