Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) extended his overall lead over his closest challenger, Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) on stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia, but lost a little more ground to third-placed Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), who won the stage.
Bernal carefully managed his effort on the Alpe di Mera summit finish, refusing to directly respond to Yates’ attack 6.3km from the summit, and instead leaning on his teammates before pushing on in the final two kilometres.
However, despite initially dropping Caruso, he faded in the final kilometre and only ended up gaining eight seconds – four seconds plus a four-second bonus for third place – on the Italian.
Bernal’s overall lead, therefore, stretches to 2:29.
However, both he and Caruso may well be more concerned about Yates than each other. The Briton took a swipe at Sega di Ala two days ago and continued his ascendancy with his stage win.
With 10 bonus seconds for the stage win (although only six compared to Bernal, who took four), he put 34 seconds into Bernal, reducing his arrears in third place to 2:49.
Bernal will still feel he has a healthy buffer with one mountain stage remaining but Caruso may not. He lost 38 seconds compared to Yates, who is now just 20 seconds behind him on GC.
The riders who started the day in the top three positions further distinguished themselves from the rest of the top 10. However, one exception was João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who placed second on the day for the second time in two mountain stages.
The Portuguese started the day eighth overall, after losing time early in the race and then working for teammate Remco Evenepoel, but continued to gain ground on those above him. Despite again missing out on the stage win, and despite staying in eighth overall, he put 44 seconds into seventh-placed Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers), and 1:20 into both Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo). As a result, Almeida, who is still 8:26 down on Bernal, is now only 1:16 off the top-five.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) remains ensconced in fourth overall, having placed fifth on the stage. He finished alongside Caruso, getting no closer to the podium but still increasing his buffer over Carthy and Yates, putting 53 seconds into the pair of them.
Tenth-placed Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) was the next finisher in sixth, 42 seconds down on Yates, although there remains a big gap to ninth-placed Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma), who finished at 1:25 alongside Carthy and Bardet.
It was Carthy and Bardet who could be considered the biggest losers of the day. Not only did any faint podium hopes evaporate completely, they’re now facing more pressure from behind than looking at gains out front.
Almeida has drawn closer, but Bernal’s domestique Martinez, who set pace for much of the climb, managed to finish seventh on the stage at 49 seconds.
That’s 36 seconds clear of Carthy and Bardet, who are now just 32 and 10 seconds in front of the Colombian on GC.
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