Giro d'Italia race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has said that he is as prepared as he can be for what promises to be a spectacularly tough day of mountain racing on Monday when the peloton faces both brutally tough weather and the race's hardest climbing stage, all in one go.
Bernal currently leads the Giro by 1:33 over closest rival Simon Yates (Team Bike Exchange), and has been the strongest GC rider on all of the mountain stages to date.
However, Monday’s stage includes four categorised climbs: Crosetta, Fedaia, Pordoi and Giau – plus, it is the race’s equal second longest stage distance at 212 kilometres. In addition, there are forecasts of the Giro’s roughest weather to date. All said, it would give even the most battle-hardened of Grand Tour specialists food for thought.
And such is the likely importance of stage 16 that even after a fraught Sunday of wet weather, technical climbs and a huge crash early on, none of the questions fielded by Bernal in his post-stage press conference had any focus but the imminent trek across the Dolomites. It was a questioning so detailed he was even asked if he would wear gloves.
“It’s a very decisive stage, so you will have to be ready for sure, they say it’s going to be very cold,” Bernal told reporters. “For sure I’ll be wearing gloves, all the clothing I need. We have to be prepared, eat well, rest well and be ready.”
Bernal dismissed the idea that since he had shown his superiority on the climbs, he would need to be more concerned about the technical, probably rain soaked descents off Monday’s climb. With an echo of the ‘total football’ approach of the great Ajax team in the 1970s, the Colombian said “we have to be attentive to everything.
“I didn’t come to this Giro thinking about the climbs, the time trial or the descents in particular. We are here to win the Giro and everything matters.”
Whether the sub-zero temperatures predicted for the higher segments of the mountains actually materialize or not, Bernal argued that he would “need to have a cool head on Monday.”
“For sure it’s a very difficult stage, and it will be important to have teammates with me. On such a long day, you don’t want to end up being isolated,” he reflected.
Bernal admitted that having held the Giro lead for a week, including Tuesday’s rest day, his team were using a lot of energy keeping the race under control.
“[Salvatore] Puccio was working really hard on days like today, so he’s more tired than normal and Pippo [Filippo Ganna] is working a lot on these stages too," he said.
“But we knew having this jersey was important, we’re here to win the Giro and we’ve got the right mentality and a lot of confidence. So we’ll do our best.”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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