Battling Yates keeps grip on Giro lead

Simon Yates, of Australia's Mitchelton-Scott team, has kept the Giro's pink jersey after stage 17

Australian pro cycling team Mitchelton-Scott took another step closer to a maiden grand tour victory as their British rider, Simon Yates, retained the overall lead in the Giro d'Italia after Wednesday's rain-lashed 17th stage.

Yates had begun the day with a 56-second lead over defending champion Tom Dumoulin after Tuesday's time trial.

And the 25-year-old finished the 155-km course from Riva da Garda safely in the main pack in a time of three hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds, leaving him in 28th position on the day.

Italy's Elia Viviani survived the downpour to win a bunch sprint to the line as he claimed his fourth stage win of the race while Ireland's Sam Bennett, of Bora-Hansgrohe, was forced to settle for second after finding himself briefly boxed out on the final straight.

Yates is still in pole position to become the first Briton to win the Giro, with the race heading back into the mountains on Thursday where the 25-year-old will look to take more time away from time-trial specialist Dumoulin.

"There's no easy day at the Giro. This was another hard one and it could have some impact on the coming mountain stages," Yates said at the finish line.

"I heard about splits in the bunch but I never knew who was caught behind. I hope everyone is tired, because I'm tired."

Italian Domenico Pozzovivo, of Bahrain-Merida, is third, three minutes and 11 seconds down, putting him 39 seconds ahead of Team Sky's British star Chris Froome in fourth place.

Fifth-placed Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is a further 29 seconds back while Australia's Rohan Dennis, who won Tuesday's individual time-trial, remains sixth overall

Stage winner Viviani, barring a major accident, now has the maglia ciclamino in his grasp ahead of Thursday's mainly flat 196-km stage between Abbiategrasso and Prato Nevoso, which ends with a steep Category one climb - the first of three summit finishes.

The 29-year-old benefited from an expert lead-out from team-mates Zdenek Stybar and Fabio Sabatini during an almighty downpour to become the first Italian in 13 years to win four stages in a single Giro.

Dutchman Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Belgian Jens Debusschere (Lotto Fix All) completed the top five following a hectic finale.

Viviani said: "We knew this could be a very hard stage and it was indeed.

"There were very strong breakaway riders but Bora controlled. We played a little bit with them.

"We did it right because it was the second last stage for sprinters and Bennett could have put my maglia ciclamino in danger.

"Once it came down to a bunch sprint, I asked my guys to lead me out.

"When Van Poppel anticipated the sprint, I knew it was too early. It was actually perfect for me. I could pass him."