Osimo (Italy) (AFP) - Chris Froome's Giro d'Italia hopes took a killer blow on Wednesday as the Briton lost even more time in the 11th stage won by overall leader Simon Yates.
The 25-year-old Yates extended his advantage as Froome, 32, lost more time and is now nearly three minutes behind his compatriot.
"I certainly haven't given up hope," insisted Froome. "I'm going to keep plugging away, I'm motivated, the team's motivated and we're going to do as much as we can."
Yates attacked on the final climb with a kilometre to ride to claim his second stage win this year, finishing two seconds ahead of defending champion Tom Dumoulin.
The Mitchelton-Scott rider extends his lead on Dutchman Dumoulin by a further six seconds to 47sec.
"Tom (Dumoulin) is the one who is worrying me, he's still too close," said Yates who is also King of the Mountains.
"He was chasing me and he looked better than other days on steep finishes. He's getting better as the race goes on.
"The Giro has been in my head since last winter. It's my objective this year."
Froome again lost steam in the final climb with the four-time Tour de France winner finishing in 42nd position, some 40 seconds behind Yates.
Italy's Davide Formolo was third, a further three seconds behind, after the 156km hilly route from the central city of Assisi across to Osimo near the Adriatic coast.
- Nowhere to hide for Froome -
Team Sky rider Froome has struggled at key moments since the start of the race -- falling twice -- and is now over three minutes off the lead.
He needs a miracle to revive his attempt to become the first rider to win three Grand Tours in a row since Frenchman Bernard Hinault in 1982/83.
He had been reduced to a spectator's role in the battle for the pink jersey which for now is a two-horse race between Yates and Dumoulin.
"It was a tough day, it wasn't as long as yesterday, but it was another pretty brutal finish," said Froome.
"I'm not going to lie, it took a whack out of me that crash before the start in Jerusalem and in this game if you're not at your absolute best there's nowhere to hide.
"I'm going to keep fighting, it's good to get this racing in the legs."
The stage crossed through the home town of Italian cyclist Michele Scarponi who was killed in a road accident a year ago.
Three breakaway riders Alessandro De Marchi, Luis Leon Sanchez and Fausto Masnada were caught five kilometres from the line before two steep climbs to the finish.
Yates, who is competing in his first Giro, has worn the leader's jersey since the arrival at the volcanic Mount Etna in Sicily last Thursday.
"We decided before the stage that we wouldn't chase because normally on such a finale there are faster guys like Tim Wellens," explained Yates.
"Other teams did that for the stage win. The plan was that if it came back I would, of course, try."
Thursday's 214km ride will be over a flat route from Osimo to Imola, two days before a gruelling mountain stage with a summit finish on Monte Zoncolan.