Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) may have suffered, and Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) may have lit a fuse under the Giro d'Italia general classification, but Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), second overall, forges steadily in his quest for a career-defining podium finish in Milan.
The Italian veteran has never placed so highly in a Grand Tour, and his shrewd policy of keeping tempo on the Sega di Ala climb, even as other GC contenders roared off the front or were dropped, paid dividends.
Unable to stay with Simon Yates when he launched a powerful attack four kilometres from the summit, and then quickly dropped Bernal, Caruso nonetheless caught the Colombian a bare 500 metres further on and stayed with him to the finish.
With his second place at risk from Yates, Caruso helped set the pace a little with Bernal's teammate Dani Martínez as they fought to limit the damage inflicted by the Briton.
But the alliance between the two rivals was only ever going to last for as long as it was in Caruso benefit, and the Italian underlined that when he managed to slip away from the struggling Bernal near the summit finish and regain three seconds.
Although not as explosive an attacker as Yates, and indeed Caruso has yet to launch a single attack in this year's race, with the GC battle suddenly re-opened again, there is no predicting what could happen further down the line for Caruso. His usual role as team worker has suddenly flipped into that of team captain.
"It was one of the hardest stages of this year's Giro, the last hour and a half was really full gas," Caruso said later, "and that last climb was super hard.
"Like I expected, Yates attacked and opened up a gap, but I felt good and I maintained my tempo until the finish, so the gap wasn't so big. In any case, I couldn't follow him, so I didn't have any other choice!"
Down 50 seconds on Yates at the finish, the Italian said that he had been encouraged by his ability to stay steady and at his own pace without suffering too greatly. But what truly proved to be an eye opener, he said, was when he caught Bernal.
"When I saw the maglia rosa suffer like that, my morale went up," Caruso admitted directly, "because in these moments, it's hard for everybody."
In terms of GC, assuming Yates attacks again in the two remaining mountain stages, Caruso is more vulnerable than Bernal, as there are only 62 seconds separating the Briton and the Italian.
However, if Bernal finds himself in serious trouble in the stages to come and Caruso remains as consistent as he has been up to now, it could yet be the Italian who benefits the most.
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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