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Damiano Caruso takes stunning win as Egan Bernal all but seals Giro d’Italia

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Damiano Caruso – Damiano Caruso takes stunning win as Egan Bernal all but seals Giro d’Italia – GETTY IMAGES

Caruso wins the biggest race of his career to all but seals second

Bernal on verge of winning Giro d’Italia

Yates is on course to finish third in Milan

Simon Yates said he gave everything but “did not have the legs” to put further time into Egan Bernal on the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday as the Colombian moved to within one step of victory.

All eyes were on the enthralling duel developed over the final week between the British rider from BikeExchange and Ineos Grenadiers’ 2019 Tour de France champion. Yates had gapped Bernal on stage 17 on Wednesday before riding away from him again on Friday to win set 19 solos. And there were question marks over Bernal’s longstanding back injury.

But having begun on Saturday – the final mountain stage of the race – looking to make inroads into a deficit which stood at 2min 49sec, Yates hit a brick wall. “We tried to do something again; the boys did a fantastic job again, as always,” the 28-year-old said afterward. “The plan was to try something on the second to last climb, but we arrived there, and I didn’t have the legs. A bit of fatigue from yesterday, maybe. A bit of fatigue from three weeks all coming together.

“But as always, I did the best I could, and I’m happy with what I did, and we finish off with the TT [time trial] tomorrow.” Yates ended up finishing sixth on the stage, 51 seconds behind stage winner Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), who consolidated second place in the general classification, and 27 seconds behind Bernal, who was second over the line after excellent work from Ineos Grenadiers teammate Dani Martínez who stayed with him until the final kilometers.

“My teammates did a great job and managed things perfectly; I have to thank them,” admitted Bernal, who will take a 1min 59sec advantage over Caruso into Sunday’s 30km time trial in Milan. “I was scared of losing. I’m full of different emotions. I had the legs and the team in place, but Caruso was a GC [general classification] rival upfront.

“When he got 30 or 40 seconds in front, even if I felt good, I was worried I could suffer. It was easy to lose 1:30 and then have to fight in the final time trial.” Yates sits third overall at 3min 23sec heading into the final day, a podium finish almost a formality thanks to his near four-minute advantage over fourth-placed Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech). “We’re staying focused,” Yates said. “It’s only one more day, and then we can celebrate a nice podium in Milan.”003:03 pm

Caruso wins stage 20 at the Giro!

I cannot believe this, Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) has won the biggest race of his life and all but secured second on general classification at the Giro d’Italia. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) silences the doubters to finish second and, barring disaster, will seal the maglia rosa. Meanwhile, Dani Martínez meanwhile, who once again did one of the day’s rides helping teammate Bernal, finished in third.

Damiano Caruso

Romain Bardet (DSM) hung on to take fourth on the day while climbing to fifth overall, and Simon Yates (BikeExchange) rolled over the line in fifth. The Briton should seal third in Milan tomorrow. Seconds after the finish, stage winner Caruso said: “I thought about a thousand things in the last meters before the finish line, all my sacrifices, my training, and all the work done by my teammates.

Damiano Caruso – GETTY IMAGES

“We rode in a right way today, Pello Bilbao, in particular, did an incredible job, and he played a fundamental role in this victory. Today I realized a dream. I think I am the happiest man in the world.” Bernal admitted he was ‘worried’ when Caruso went up the road on the attack but said he was confident of finishing the job off in Milan. He can become to second Colombian to take home the maglia rosa after Nairo Quintana first did so in 2014.

Dani Martínez sets an infernal pace on the front of the chasing group on the ascent of Alpe Motta – GETTY IMAGES

“Today, we rode very well as a team; we controlled the race in the best possible way,” Bernal said. “My teammates did a super job, a special thanks to Jonathan Castroviejo. I had good legs, and I knew I had teammates around me, but when Caruso attacked, I admit I was worried about his advantage increases. Now I am confident for tomorrow’s last stage, I have a two-minute lead in the GC [general classification], and I will give everything in the time trial.”003:01 pm

500 meters to go

Egan Bernal is off up the road, on course to finish second, I think, to stage winner Damiano Caruso . . . or is there going to be a sting in the tail of this quite extraordinary, and totally enthralling, stage?003:01 pm

800 meters to go

Dani Martínez has dispatched Simon Yates and Joao Almeida. Egan Bernal is, barring doing a Devon Loch, going to win the Giro d’Italia.003:00 pm

1km to go

Simon Yates is dropped.002:59 pm

1.5km to go

Damiano Caruso is holding on. And the crowds are going nuts.

Damiano Caruso – GETTY IMAGES002:58 pm

2km to go

Romain Bardet was not sandbagging; he has cracked. Damiano Caruso is, against all the odds, holding off the chasing group – he leads by 20sec – but that could vanish within the blink of an eye.002:56 pm

2.5km to go

Damiano Caruso’s lead is dropping below 20sec now, and Romain Bardet is not working on the front. The Frenchman is either suffering badly or is sandbagging, but only time will tell.

Damiano Caruso and Romain Bardet – GETTY IMAGES

02:55 PM

3.5km to go

Dani Martínez is doing some severe damage on this final climb. The Colombian is riding as a lead-out for teammate and compatriot Egan Bernal, closing the gap on Damiano Caruso to 25sec. At the same time, only Simon Yates and Aleksandr Vlasov can hold the wheels.002:53 pm

4km to go

Jersey unzipped, Damiano Caruso is being cheered on – willed on – by his countrymen stood at the roadside. He’s looking solid and, in fact, Romain Bardet may be struggling to hold his wheel.002:51 pm

4.5km to go

Joao Almeida claws his way back onto the rear of the maglia rosa’s group. Dani Martínez and Egan Bernal are doing the perfect ride here today, so far at least.002:49 pm

5km to go

Dani Martínez is riding hard on the front of the chasing group, while Joao Almeida, George Bennett, and Koen Bouwman are dropped. Damiano Caruso and Romain Bardet are working together, each doing his turn, holding onto a lead of around 35sec.002:46 pm

6.5km to go

Pello Bilbao is done for the day. A lovely touch from Damiano Caruso, who pats his teammate on the back before taking over on the front in the penultimate stage in the Giro. What a feeling this must be for the veteran who has never won a WorldTour race, nor finished higher than eighth at a grand tour, and has, in fact, just two wins on his palmarès: a stage at the 2013 edition of Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali and the one-day Circuito de Getxo-Memorial Hermanos Otxoa last year. Romain Bardet is sat on his wheel.002:44 pm

6.7km to go

Jonathan Castroviejo peels off the front of the chasing group, leaving teammates Dani Martínez and Egan Bernal to do their thing; Michael Storer drops out of the breakaway.002:43 pm

7km to go

Michael Storer leads the way, ahead of Pello Bilbao, Romain Bardet, and Damiano Caruso. That quartet lead the maglia rosa by 37sec.002:41 pm

Onto the Alpe Motta002:40 pm

8km to go

I stand corrected. I said earlier that Simon Yates was isolated, but I just spotted Mikel Nieve. The maglia rosa’s group trails Damiano Caruso by 41sec.002:38 pm

10km to go

Not for the first time today, Dani Martínez loses the wheel in front of him. Fortunately for his leader Egan Bernal, he is much stronger when the road goes uphill – which will be in a couple of kilometers for the ascent of the Alpe Motta002:35 pm

12km to go

Three Ineos Grenadiers riders sit ahead of Simon Yates, while Aleksandr Vlasov, Hugh Carthy, Dan Martin, Joao Almeida, George Bennett, Koen Bouwman, and a handful more of decent climbers are in this chasing group.002:31 pm

15km to go

All calm in the chasing group, but will that change on the final climb of the Giro, the first category Alpe Motta which is 7.3km long at an average gradient of 7.6% and tops out at 1,723m?002:29 pm

20km to go

The breakaway has passed through the bad weather, the quartet whizzing along towards the final climb of the day on excellent dry roads. As a result of the improved conditions, or perhaps a concerted effort from them, their gap has grown to 39sec.002:27 pm

22.5km to go

Those two chasing groups have reformed, meaning Egan Bernal now has two teammates – Dani Martínez and Jonathan Castroviejo – with just one climb in this year’s Giro d’Italia to go. By contrast, Simon Yates appears isolated.002:24 pm

25km to go

The Damiano Caruso-Romain Bardet are working well together, while further back, a few splits have started to form near the front of the pack. Dani Martínez has been caught out, while his teammate Jonathan Castroviejo is on the front of the group ahead.002:19 pm

28km to go

Onto the descent now, and it does not look pretty. The road is really smooth but is soaked wet through and will be incredibly slippery. Pello Bilbao leads the breakaway down, their lead dropping to 35sec – not especially worth taking any risks on these tricky switchbacks.002:16 pm

30km to go

Damiano Caruso sits up and discards a jersey, replacing it with a jacket handed to him by a roadside helper. The Italian that arrived at the Giro d’Italia three weeks ago to support the ambitions of team leader Mikel Landa is doing incredibly well here. The four-man group – Felix Grosschartner has been dropped – lead by 43sec.002:12 pm

31km to go

Aleksandr Vlasov, an Astana-Premier Tech teammate, and Simon Yates, Hugh Carthy, and Joao Almeida are tied in behind the trio of Ineos Grenadiers riders.002:08 pm

32km to go

Joao Almeida whacks a gel down his neck, Hugh Carthy rises out of his saddle with his bright pink gilet flapping in the wind while Simon Yates, who ordinarily does not cope too well in the cold and the wet, has just his short-sleeved jersey on. As it stands, Damiano Caruso is 1min 45sec off top spot, and Egan Bernal has just two teammates – Jonathan Castroviejo and Dani Martínez – for company.002:05 pm

33km to go

Pello Bilbao rides on the front of the break, pulling the five-man group – the others being Romain Bardet, Damiano Caruso, Michael Storer, and Felix Grosschartner – up towards the summit of the Splügen Pass, and their lead has increased to 48sec.002:00 pm

35km to go

Louis Vervaeke, the former Sunweb rider, pulls on the front of the breakaway ahead of a pair of riders from his former employers. The Romain Bardet and Damiano Caruso group now leads Egan Bernal by 37sec, so the Italian is within two minutes of the top spot at the Giro d’Italia – and he’s more vital in the time trial than the current race leader. Gianni Moson, I assure you, has finally peeled off.001:56 pm

36.5km to go

Apologies, it looks like Gianni Moscon is, in fact, in that group of Ineos Grenadiers riders. The influential Italian regained contact and is back on the front on behalf of Egan Bernal, who has his rain jacket covering his maglia rosa and, in all honestly, looks pretty composed.001:51 pm

39km to go

The breakaway’s lead has dropped slightly to 23sec. I think Gianni Moscon and Salvatore Puccio are done for the day. If that’s the case, then that will leave Egan Bernal with just three teammates – Jonathan Castroviejo, Dani Martínez, and Jhonatan Narváez.001:50 pm

40km to go

Action stations in the peloton. Everybody is starting to look twitchy about the presence of Damiano Caruso being in this leading group. As it stands, DSM and Bahrain Victorious are in the box seat, with Roman Bardet having moved up a place in the virtual general classification. Caruso is cementing his second place in the general category while also closing the gap slightly on Egan Bernal.

Giro d’Italia 2021, stage 20 – live updates – GETTY IMAGES001:46 pm

44km to go

There are spots of rain in the air, though thankfully the road looks pretty dry.001:45 pm

45km to go

Simon Yates and BikeExchange will not like Damiano Caruso being in this lead group, and nor will Egan Bernal, who now has Gianni Moscon riding on the front as they attempt to rein them back in.001:44 pm

47km to go

The DSM trio of Romain Bardet, Chris Hamilton, and Michael Storer, along with Damiano Caruso and Pello Bilbao, have managed to bridge over to the breakaway. The gap between the two groups, though, is just 20sec.001:38 pm

51km to go

Three DSM riders, including Chris Hamilton and Romain Bardet, have floated off the front of the maglia rosa’s group on this descent; Damiano Caruso and Bahrain Victorious teammate Pello Bilbao are a few seconds behind. Ineos Grenadiers lead the more extensive group that is following, but they have significant numbers – six riders including Egan Bernal – and are in no rush to take any unnecessary risks.001:33 pm

54km to go

DSM led the reduced peloton down this snaking descent. There’s around 20km of downhill ahead of the next climb, the Splügen Pass. Worryingly for some, there are dark clouds on the horizon that will not fill those that do not cope well in the cold with hope.001:31 pm

Bouchard, the king of the hill

Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën) extends his lead in the mountains classification after the Frenchman clips off the front of the maglia rosa’s group to add a few more points to his tally.001:28 pm

57.7km to go

Over the top of the snow-capped Passo San Bernardino goes the five-man breakaway, rider zipping up their gilets or getting their jackets on ahead of the descent on these carpet-smooth Swiss roads. There’s a strong headwind on the downhill that leads into the Splügenpass, the penultimate climb of the day, and the entire Giro d’Italia before the stage is decided on the Alpe Motta. The peloton trails by 50sec.001:24 pm

60km to go

Nicholas Roche peels off, allowing teammate Chris Hamilton to take over. The Australian almost immediately puts in an increase in pace, which causes Simon Yates’s teammates Mikel Nieve and Tanel Kangert to nearly losing the wheels in front of them.

San Bernardino – GETTY IMAGES001:19 pm

It’s Roche, Roche!

Nicholas Roche (DSM) is riding hard at the head of the bunch, the Irishman putting in a massive shift to shell a few riders from the sizeable, though reduced, the group containing all of the general classification contenders – specifically Egan Bernal, Damiano Caruso and Simon Yates who started today in first, second and third spots respectively. Here’s a reminder of the standings . . .001:16 pm

62.5km to go

Just under 5km from the summit of this 24km long climb and the pace being set on the front of the peloton has caused a few splits, with the weaker pack members unable to hold on. The five-man breakaway, meanwhile, has seen its lead drop to below two minutes now. Egan Bernal still has five teammates alongside him.001:10 pm

64km to go

Michael Hepburn is the latest of the foot-soldiers to peel off; the Australian has been riding pretty hard for some time now and will be stepping aside for a teammate more suited to these big climbs.001:08 pm

64.5km to go

Roughly two-thirds of the way up this climb, and there’s been a change of guard on the front of the bunch. DSM takes over. Presumably, their best-placed rider on general classification Romain Bardet is feeling strong today. DSM is one of those teams that have no wins – though it went close with Bardet and Nicholas Roche.001:05 pm

66km to go

Taco van der Hoorn, by the way, was caught by the peloton a few minutes ago.001:04 pm

67km to go

Having been dropped earlier, Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) has bridged over to the breakaway, the five-man group now leading by 3min 11sec. Now on home roads, perhaps the Swiss feels reinvigorated?112:55 pm

70km to go

Iljo Keisse may be tiring, the Belgian peels off the front of the peloton having done a decent shift on behalf of Joao Almeida.112:50 pm

71.5km to go

There has been a slight regrouping on the front. Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), Felix Grosschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix), and Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) are riding together, with a lead of 4min 3sec on the peloton.112:48 pm

Ganna, Ganna, gone . . .

The diesel that is Filippoo Ganna has peeled off, his race for the day appears done leaving the Ineos Grenadiers team leader Egan Bernal with Salvatore Puccio, Gianni Moscon, Jhonatan Narváez, Jonathan Castroviejo and Dani Martínez for company.

San Bernardino – GETTY IMAGES112:46 pm

The White Wolf will be happy112:44 pm

73km to go

Michael Hepburn and Christopher Juul-Jensen are riding the early part of the San Bernardino at a fierce pace, just ahead of Iljo Keisse (Deceuninck-Quick Step). Filippo Ganna is sat at the front of a long line of Ineos Grenadiers riders, working today to protect the maglia rosa on the young but hugely talented shoulders of Egan Bernal.112:38 pm

75km to go

Up, up and away! Felix Grosschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix) have floated off up the road as it rises up this long, long climb. The remnants of the earlier breakaway have started to splinter, the peloton trails by 4min 15sec.112:26 pm

80km to go

Louis Vervaeke rises out of his saddle before rolling off the front of the breakaway, but one suspects the Belgian will not be on his own for too long. The peloton has closed that gap down to 3min 20sec which suggests the stage winner will not be coming from the breakaway today, bucking the quite extraordinary trend at the Giro where 10 victories have come from the break – Taco van der Hoorn (stage three), Joe Dombrowski (stage four), Gino Mäder (stage six), Victor Lafay (stage eight), Mauro Schmid (stage 11), Andrea Vendrame (stage 12), Lorenzo Fortunato (stage 14), Victor Campenaerts (stage 15), Dan Martin (stage 17) and Alberto Bettiol (stage 18).112:13 pm

85km to go

The strung-out peloton is not too far from the foot of the Passo San Bernardino, which at 24 kilometers long is, by my calculations, the longest official climb in this year’s race. Topping out at 2,066 meters above sea level and with an average gradient of 6.2% – with pitches up to 12% – this could be a critical point in the stage. If the rumors are true that Egan Bernal’s back is playing up, then an hour and a half of climbing will, undoubtedly, expose any weaknesses he has. However, as I mentioned yesterday, I do think Bernal’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated. The maglia rosa rode a clever race on Friday and in Dani Martínez has a superb lieutenant in the high mountains – natural racing terrain for the two Colombians – but it will be fascinating to see how the climb is raced by the key protagonists.112:05 pm

90km to go

Jacopo Mosca has joined forces with BikeExchange, and Deceuninck-Quick Step on the peloton’s front, suggesting Trek-Segafredo’s Vincenzo Nibali of Bauke Mollema fancy their chances. Today represents the last chance for many teams to win a stage at the Giro, and so while much of the focus is on the general classification, those teams who have yet to achieve any success at the race will be giving i=n one final throw of the dice. The breakaway’s advantage has dropped to 4min 5sec as a result of that three-way alliance.

Jacopo Mosca – GETTY IMAGES111:51 am

As it stands . . .

Good afternoon. Today’s stage got underway at111.34 am (BST) as the remaining 143 riders in the race rolled through KMO. Fabio Felline, incidentally, was the only non-starter this morning, with the Italian becoming the first Astana-Premier Tech rider to abandon.

Breakaway – GETTY IMAGES

Although there were attacks from the off, it took some time for a breakaway to stick but finally, a nine-man group comprising Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), Nico Denz (DSM), Felix Grosschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix) and Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) formed. With 100km of this monster stage remaining, that group holds a lead of five minutes five seconds.

If you are reading this, then you will know that Simon Yates is hoping to dislodge Egan Bernal from the top spot in the general classification and that Joao Almeida is eyeing a first stage win at this year’s race for his team, which is probably why BikeExchange and Deceuninck-Quick Step are working today on the front of the peloton. For both to achieve their ambitions, they may have to first isolate Bernal from his Ineos Grenadiers teammates – especially Jonathan Castroviejo and Dani Martínez – but as we saw in the last two mountain stages,,, that is a little bit easier said than done.05:05 am

What’s on today’s, then?

Today’s stage (see below profile) features three category one climbs while twice going high above 2,00 meters in altitude. With everything to play for, Simon Yates must throw everything he has – the ultimate Hail Mary – if he wants to take home the maglia rosa. Damiano Caruso, meanwhile, must mark the Briton to within an inch of his life if he is to keep hold of his second spot on general classification. With a 2min 29sec lead over Caruso – and 2min 49sec on Yates – Egan Bernal can afford to lose up to around two minutes to both and still stand a chance of becoming only the second Colombian to ever win the Giro d’Italia in Milan on Sunday.

Stage 20

Here’s what the roadbook says about the final mountain stage: “A colossal Alpine stage, crossing over to Switzerland. After the start, the route passes the Swiss border to negotiate the never-ending San Bernardino Pass (24 km), clearing the summit above 2,000 meters.

San Bernardino Pass

“After the descent, the riders will rise again to over 2,000 meters, to negotiate the Splügen Pass (see below). A technical drop (passing through a few tunnels and an avalanche gallery) will lead all the way to the foot of the closing climb in Campodolcino.

PDS

“The ramps are steep over the last 7km. Past Campodolcino (see below), the route ascends in hairpins, through several tunnels, up to Pianazzo, traveling the old, narrow road to Madesimo, with punishing gradients.

Motta

“After a relatively flat stretch in Madesimo (see final 3km below), the route rises again with gradients nearing 10% over the last kilometers. The home straight is on tarmac road and on a slight incline.”

Final 3km05:05 am
M

Catch up: Highlights from Friday’s stage05:05 am

Ciao!

Hello and welcome to our coverage of stage 20 at the Giro d’Italia, the 164-kilometre run from Verbania to Valle Spluga-Alpe Motta.

Simon Yates – Giro d’Italia 2021, stage 20 – live updates – GETTY IMAGES

Simon Yates (BikeExchange) may have won the stage on Friday, but when the dust settled and the numbers were pored over, what were we left with? Well, it was pretty much a case of you being in the race for the general classification. In fact, despite all of the rumblings about Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) having ‘cracked’, he increased his lead over Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) by 8sec.

Egan Bernal – Giro d’Italia 2021, stage 20 – live updates – GETTY IMAGES

Though it was a spirited ride and a well-deserved victory for Yates, he will have to do much, much better – or hope that Bernal does genuinely crack – when the race enters his Colombian rival’s natural terrain: the high mountains. And it is in those high mountains, Bernal will wear the maglia rosa, or leader’s pink jersey, for an 11th successive day. But what does the top 10 look like, and who else is on the verge of taking home the jerseys from Italy?

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) keeps hold of the maglia ciclamino, the cyclamen jersey, and will, barring something quite extraordinary happening in the mountains today, secure the first Giro d’Italia points jersey of his career when the race concludes in Milan.

Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën) has all but assured the second mountains classification jersey of his career after also topping the standings at 2019 Vuelta an España. The maglia Azzurra, blue jersey, cannot be mathematically secured until today’s stage is over.

Alexandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) will again wear the maglia Bianca, or the white jersey, on behalf of the maglia rosa Bernal.