There was to be no major late upheaval on the final mountain stage of the Giro d’Italia, as Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) successfully defended the maglia rosa to take a two-minute lead into Sunday’s concluding time trial to Milan.
Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), who started the day second overall, attacked from range and won the stage, but was unable to turn the Giro upside down, as Bernal placed second on the stage, conceding half a minute of his considerable 2:29 advantage.
The Giro has had its share of late drama in recent years but Bernal’s back injury – despite a wave of speculation – held firm, and he was helped by a stand-out ride from teammate Daniel Martinez on the final climb of Alpe Motta.
Martinez nullified any remaining sense of threat from Simon Yates (BikeExchange), as he rode the stage 19 winner out of the GC group inside the final two kilometres of the climb, and even placed third on the stage himself. Yates could only manage sixth place, 51 seconds back on Caruso and 27 seconds back on Bernal.
As such, the podium looks cemented ahead of the time trial, with Bernal leading Caruso by 1:59 after bonus seconds were factored in, and with Yates now at 3:23.
There is a gulf to the rest of the top-five, where Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) held on to fourth place despite being dropped over three kilometres from the summit and placing seventh on the stage at 1:13.
The biggest shift in the general classification saw Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) fall from fifth to seventh, with Romain Bardet (Team DSM) profiting to move into the top five.
The Frenchman joined Caruso in that long-range attack on the descent of the Passo San Bernardino, but was dropped by the Italian two kilometres from the top of Alpe Motta and had to settle for fourth behind the Ineos duo.
Still, with Carthy falling away from the maglia rosa group four kilometres from the summit, and finishing in eighth at 1:49, Bardet got something out of the day.
Bardet is now fifth at 7:48, with Martinez the other rider to leapfrog Carthy into sixth place at 7:56. Carthy himself is now seventh at 8:22.
João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) wasn’t able to muster that highly-sought stage win but nevertheless produced a strong display to place fifth on the stage at 41 seconds, having been the last rider to stay with Martinez and Bernal.
He remains eighth overall, but may well be thinking about moving up in the 30km final time trial. One of the strongest against the clock, he needs 28 seconds on Carthy, even if taking 54 seconds back from Martinez seems a hugely tall order.
Bardet, over at the weakest end of the time trialling spectrum, only has an eight-second buffer over Martinez, and 34 seconds on Carthy, who has produced some strong rides recently. Even Almeida, who took more than half a minute out of him in the 9km opening time trial, is dangerous at 1:02 behind the Frenchman.
It’s all to play for from places 5-8, but there’s no longer any room for movement in the rest of the top 10, as Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) struggled on the final climb. They were both dropped more than six kilometres from the summit, with Foss placing 11th on the stage at 2:37 and Martin 14th at 3:10.
Foss is now 12:39 down in ninth place, with Martin 10th at 16:48.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.