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Dimension Data team manager Doug Ryder is hoping to keep both Deloitte as a major sponsor and Mark Cavendish as a team leader in 2019 as the African WorldTour team tries to fight back after a testing spring hit by injuries to a string of leading riders. Last week the usually well-informed Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf  first reported that Deloitte would no longer back the Dimension Data team in 2019 and instead join up with bike brand Giant to replace BMC as title sponsor of Jim Ochowicz's squad for 2019. Cyclingnews understands that Ochowicz has confirmed to his riders that the reports of Deloitte coming on board are not true and he is hoping to fund a team for 2019 via sponsorship from Giant, as well as existing partners Sophos, and Swisse Vitamin. ADVERTISEMENT The reports about Deloitte caused Ryder a few sleepless nights. He was with a group of important Deloitte guests at the Tour of California when De Telegraaf published its story, and Deloitte never confirmed or denied the reports. The precarious nature of professional cycling and the huge budgets needed to sign the biggest riders and provide them with the best support means the WorldTour is often dog eat dog and a battle of survival. However, Ryder ruled out a merger with the BMC Racing team, despite reports that Dimension Data will ride BMC bikes in 2019. He is focused on securing the next phase of the African team's future and is convinced the team can continue to help develop African riders and help African children via the Qhubeka charity. "There are lots of conversations going on with sponsors all the time and I don't think reports like that help anyone, neither us or even Jim Ochowicz as he tries to secure the future of his team," Ryder told Cyclingnews at the Giro d'Italia. Keeping Cavendish is key Riding the down wave, working to get back up
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Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez made a concerted effort to jump up the overall classification on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia on Thursday when he attacked on the final climb to Prato Nevoso, finishing 10 minutes behind stage winner Max Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors), who was part of the day's successful breakaway, but 15 seconds ahead of the first of this Giro's main contenders. Bahrain-Merida's Domenico Pozzovivo led home the best of the rest in a small group that included Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Chris Froome (Team Sky), while race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) lost almost 30 seconds to his closest rivals – and 43 seconds to Lopez, who holds the white jersey as best young rider, with more than a minute's advantage over Richard Carapaz (Movistar). "I saw a possibility to attack, and I just did it," explained Lopez, who made his move with around 4km to go, and ended the day moving from seventh position overall to sixth.ADVERTISEMENT "It was Carapaz who tried first, but I was able to respond quickly, and I found myself in a good position to continue. Honestly, I wanted to gain more time on my rivals, but I did my best on the climb, which was quite fast. The hardest stages are still to come, so let's see what happens." Colombian Lopez, who is just under five minutes down on Yates, is only 2:11 behind third-placed Pozzovivo, and now has two more days in the mountains to try to edge himself into a podium position. With teammate Pello Bilbao in eighth place in the GC, the Astana duo are going to add further headache to race leader Yates and his Mitchelton-Scott teammates, who are certain to be put under pressure by the teams of the other main contenders – namely Sunweb for Dumoulin, Sky for Froome, Bahrain-Merida for Pozzovivo, and Groupama-FDJ for Thibaut Pinot – en route to the summit finishes on Monte Jafferau on Friday and Cervinia on Saturday.
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Giro d’Italia leader Simon Yates' loss of 28 seconds to defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) on the road to Prato Nervoso on Thursday now leaves the Mitchelton-Scott leader just 28 seconds ahead of the Dutchman overall, with three stages of the race remaining. While Yates battles to net Mitchelton-Scott the Giro win in Italy – which would be the first Grand Tour victory for an Australian team – directeur sportif Matt White has made moves to reassure both fans and indeed the squad that it should be a case of business as usual in the mountains on Friday and Saturday before the race ends with a stage for the sprinters in Rome on Sunday. "Simon's a pure climber, and that was pretty flat and fast today in the final, so it's not ideal," said White at the finish. "But these next two days are real Alpine climbs and they fall more into Simon's category."ADVERTISEMENT Yates has been helped considerably during the Giro by teammate, and roommate during this race, Jack Haig. The 24-year-old from Bendigo has been a key domestique for the Briton in the mountains, and is expected to again play a major role for Yates on the climbs on Friday and Saturday, having been given permission to take things a little easier during Thursday’s stage in readiness for what is still to come. Over at Dimension Data, meanwhile, 22-year-old Ben O’Connor, who hails from Perth, is sitting pretty in 12th place overall, with designs on a top 10 finish in Rome on Sunday. O’Connor has ridden beyond his years at this year’s Giro, eclipsing team leader Louis Meintjes early in the race. And while the South African would subsequently quit the race after Tuesday’s time trial, suffering from flu-like symptoms, O’Connor has enjoyed the support of his teammates and continues to look for a good GC finish.
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Simon Yates' time loss to Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin, Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) on the final climb up to Prato Nevoso was nothing to be concerned about, Yates' Mitchelton-Scott directeur sportif Matt White said after stage 18, and that better was to come on Friday's 19th stage to Bardonecchia, which is far more suited to the race leader's skill-set – even though the attacks will come from their rivals. The Australian team's no-nonsense Aussie DS was never going to dance around the subject, plainly answering reporters' questions at the finish while maintaining a positive outlook on Yates' chances for the rest of the race. "It's not ideal that Simon lost time today, but it was a climb that really suited Tom," White said. "It was a power climb – one effort – and we know how powerful Tom is in short efforts. Tomorrow we go back into the real mountains, and it's going to be a bit of a grind tomorrow, so it'll be a different bike race all together."ADVERTISEMENT Asked whether it was a surprise that Yates lost so much time over just a couple of kilometres, White suggested that it was a mere blip on an otherwise virtually faultless performance by his rider over the last two-and-half weeks. "Maybe it was a bit of a surprise, but that's because Simon hasn't shown any weakness for 19 days," said White. "But if that was a climb of seven or eight kilometres at 10 or 12 per cent, it would have been a different climb all together. Simon's a pure climber, and that was pretty flat and fast today [Thursday] in the final, so it's not ideal, but these next two days are real Alpine climbs and they fall more into Simon's category. "Tom could have a bad day tomorrow, too," he pointed out. "He's gone very deep today for those last couple of minutes. No one knows how guys are going to react in the third week, and if that was Yates' bad day at this tour, then, well, that's not so bad."
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Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy) threw everything he had at the Giro d'Italia's 18th stage on Thursday, infiltrating the day's main breakaway and then surviving to be among the final three fighting for victory on the summit finish at the Prato Nevoso ski resort. The 38-year-old Spaniard came up just short of adding a Giro d'Italia stage to his collection of Grand Tour stage wins, however, finishing second to winner Maximillian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors) with a gritty performance that saw him twice come back to the leaders after losing the pace in the closing kilometres. "I finished completely dead," Plaza said after the line, still catching his breath from the effort.ADVERTISEMENT Plaza previously won stages in the Vuelta a Espana and Tour de France, and he said before the race that he wanted to add a Giro win to his palmares, and he put in a mighty effort to keep the promise. Plaza had been fighting to stick with the slowly shrinking breakaway since the road began to climb after a long day of flat terrain, but he jumped from his rivals with 8.7km to go as the leaders' advantage on the pink jersey group remained above 12 minutes. Schachmann quickly put the clamps on Plaza's first acceleration, bringing across a group of five that included Androni-Sidermac's Mattia Cattaneo and Bora-Hansgrohe's Christoff Pfingsten. The Spanish rider's second move only launched Schachmann and Cattaneo into a duo move, with the pair trading attacks but unable to drop one another. Plaza lingered just a few seconds back, but he wasn't done yet.
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As the Giro d'Italia gruppo pedalled towards Prato Nevoso on Thursday afternoon, the eye will have been drawn by the snow-capped peaks that loomed imposingly on the horizon beyond the day's finishing climb. They seemed to serve as a tacit reminder: no matter what happens here, the hardest part is still to come. In the end, the ascent of Prato Nevoso on stage 18 tightened the margins of this Giro in a way that few could have anticipated. It was expected to be the most straightforward of the race's three days in the Alps, but a breathless finale saw Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) halve Simon Yates' lead to just 28 seconds. Come Friday's immense tappone from Venaria Reale to Bardonecchia, however, the arithmetic of this Giro may well be performed in minutes rather than seconds. Stage 19 is, quite simply, the hardest stage of the race to this point. If, as per the truism, anything can happen in the final week of the Giro, then Friday is the day where those things are most likely to take place.ADVERTISEMENT The dirt road of the Colle delle Finestre is the headline attraction on the stage – not to mention the highest point of the entire Giro – but it would be reductive to focus solely on that evocative ascent. The beauty and the brutality of stage 19 are that there is scarcely any let up at all, with the Colle del Lys, Sestriere and a summit finish on the Jafferau also crammed into the day's 184 kilometres. The route The stage sets out from Venaria Reale, north of Turin and former residence of the House of Savoy, and the road rises gradually for the first hour or so even before the gruppo hits the day's first classified climb, the category 2 Colle del Lys (13.8km at an average of 4.3 per cent and a maximum of 12 per cent). The lie of the land
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Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) coughed hard and deep as he tried to recover from his huge effort to finish with Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) on the Prato Nevoso finish at the end of the Giro d'Italia's stage 18, but he was happy to have gained a few seconds on Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and show that he can more than hold his own in the fight for the final podium places. Pozzovivo leads the Italian hopes in the Giro d'Italia after the demise of Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates). He is performing better after joining Bahrain-Merida for the 2018 season and being given a clear leadership role while teammate Vincenzo Nibali focuses on the Tour de France. Pozzovivo, like Dumoulin and Froome, gained 28 seconds on Yates and now knows the Briton could be vulnerable in the terrible final two mountain stages to Bardonecchia and Cervinia. While Froome could suffer another bad day, and Dumoulin was arguably more suited to today’s finish, the two multi-climb stages, with steep gradients and mountain finishes, are Pozzovivo's favoured terrain. He is the pure climber in the fight for the podium and so, while he lacks the palmares of Froome and Dumoulin, he is as dangerous as both of them.ADVERTISEMENT "Their attacks hurt the maglia rosa, but I just held their wheels, especially when Froome kicked, I wasn't at my limit. That's why I pushed on hard right to the finish," Pozzovivo said confidently before descending to his bus parked below the finish area. "As everyone knows, my goal is to defend my third place overall but perhaps also try for something extra, including a stage win. I'm looking forward to the big mountain stages. I'm not sure if everyone else is." CRESCENDO from Cyclingnews Films on Vimeo. Pre-order now ahead of June 1 release. Debut production THE HOLY WEEK still available to buy or rent.
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For two weeks, Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and the Giro d'Italia gruppo had laboured under the growing impression that Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) simply could not be defeated when the road climbed. For two weeks, on every manner of mountain and hill that Italy has to offer, the maglia rosa was impassive of face and light of foot, his lead seemingly impregnable. In the space of two kilometres near the summit of Prato Nevoso, however, Dumoulin put an altogether different complexion on the race by halving his deficit to the Briton in the overall standings. The Dutchman's two accelerations, first alone and then in pursuit of Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), placed Yates in difficulty for the first time in this Giro. All of a sudden, the margins have drawn tighter. With two mammoth mountain stages still to come before the race leaves the Alps, Dumoulin now trails Yates by just 28 seconds. Perhaps as importantly, for the first time since Yates seized the maglia rosa in Sicily, there has been a shift in the momentum of the race. Small wonder that Dumoulin couldn't stop repeating the same word when he was swarmed by the sizeable contingent of Dutch reporters just past the finish line. "Mooi," he kept saying. 'Nice.'ADVERTISEMENT "It is his first weak moment in this race, and that is nice," Dumoulin said. "I thought I would just try to accelerate. Then I had to sit down, and Froome came past me. But I felt that I had enough in the tank to follow him and Pozzovivo." Stage 18 was the first of three in the Piedmontese Alps, and ever since setting out from Israel, Dumoulin likely had the page marked off in his Garibaldi, as the Giro roadbook is known. A year ago, after all, he scored a stage victory in this same corner of the world on a markedly similar stage to Oropa by accelerating clear near the summit. "Today I was better, and that is nice, but I am also well aware that this stage suited me very well," Dumoulin said. "It was super slow and flat all day, and then there was a maximum effort on the climb to the finish. Alps
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