Giro d'Italia: Damiano Caruso wins stage 20

Egan Bernal successfully defended the pink jersey on the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia and is on the brink of sealing overall victory.

Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) won the stage, but by finishing just 24 seconds ahead of Bernal, does not appear to have not done enough to keep himself in contention for the pink jersey with just tomorrow’s time trial stage to come.

"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," Caruso said. 

"We rode in an exemplary 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!"

While the expected attack never materialised from Simon Yates (BikeExchange), who Bernal dropped on the final climb, Caruso put Ineos Grenadiers under pressure for much of the day after going clear on a descent with his teammate Pello Bilbao, along with Romain Bardet and a couple of his DSM teammates.

But an astonishing ride on the final climb from Dani Martinez, who managed to drop every one of Bernal’s rivals in the peloton until it was just the two Ineos Grenadiers riders left, kept Caruso within a safe distance by the finish, and keeps the Italian 1:59 adrift of Bernal on GC.

Caruso reached the bottom of the final climb, the category 1 Alpe Motta, with a lead of 40 seconds over the peloton and teammate Pello Bilbao, Romain Bardet and Michael Storer for company.

While the others were dropped early on the climb Bardet clung to his wheel until 2km from the top, when Caruso made what turned out to be his stage-winning attack.

The ride of the day was from Martinez, however, who made absolutely sure that Bernal had nothing to worry about in his defence of the pink jersey. He began setting the pace at the start of the climb, and didn't finish until the final kilometre, by which point he'd not only managed to prevent any attacks, but also dropped Yates, Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), Alexander Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech), João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and every other GC rider still in the peloton.

It was especially important for Ineos Grenadiers that Martinez was on a good day, as they'd already used up a number of domestiques chasing Caruso. Jonathan Castroviejo was the only other domestique to still be in the peloton at the penultimate climb of the day.

Despite this pressure, Ineos Grenadiers never really looked in trouble, and Bernal survived what had the potential to be a destructive stage with very few worries.

"I am satisfied with the result," said Bernal at the finish. "I think we managed the situation well. We have two minutes of an advantage for tomorrow's time trial, so I think we're in a good position."

Referring to Caruso's long-range attack, he commented that "it's not the best to have the second on GC in front of you by almost one minute, but, still having three teammates, I tried to use them, and arrive as fresh as possible at the last climb."

How it unfolded

On what was the final road stage of the Giro d'Italia, there was another long battle to get into the day's break among a variety of different kinds of riders, ranging from those hoping for one last chance to win a stage, teammates from GC teams wanting to get up the road to help their leader later in the stage, and those simply looking for a head start ahead of the day's crystal climbing.

No break had gone clear by the intermediate sprint 17km into the stage, prompting Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) into action to defend his lead in the points classification. He chose to preserve energy rather than sprint, rolling over the line a few places behind rivals Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) in third and fourth, but retains the maglia ciclamino.

It wasn't until 45km into the stage that the peloton stopped chasing, and allowed the group ahead to extend their lead to over thirty seconds. That group consisted of: Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa), Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar Team), Nico Denz (Team DSM) and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux).

There were a few delayed responses from Deceuninck-QuickStep and Trek-Segafredo, with the former briefly upping the pace at the front of the peloton and Vincenzo Nibali attempting to bridge the gap for the latter, but they soon gave up and the chase and allowed the break to go clear.

Ineos Grenadiers will have been pleased with the makeup of that group, as it included none of the riders from their rival teams of Simon Yates' BikeExchange or Damiano Caruso's Bahrain-Victorious present in it.

But having missed the break, BikeExchange, Deceuninck-QuickStep and Trek-Segafredo remained determined to boss this stage, and set about bringing them back once the gap had reached five minutes. By the foot of the first climb of the day, the category one San Bernardino, their work had brought the gap back down to about 3-30.

Aware of the need to up the pace, Vervaeke attacked in the break, going clear with Großschartner, with Albanese and Visconti and later Pellaud catching up to them further up the climb.That quintet reached the top together, where Albanese pipped Pellaud to be the first to crest it.

A slackening of the pace in the peloton during the first part of the climb had meant these leaders stopped shedding time, until Team DSM took control and increased it again towards the top of the climb. By the top, they were less than a minute behind.

DSM didn't let up on the descent, and their trio of Chris Hamilton, Michael Storer and leader Romain Bardet opened up a small advantage, along with Damiano Caruso and his Bahrain-Victorious domestique Pello Bilbao. These riders caught up to the leading quintet on a plateau during the descent, and, with a lead of 20 seconds over the peloton, chose to keep riding together.

Bernal still had five Ineos Grenadiers teammates to help him, and they led the chase in the peloton, with Simon Yates' BikeExchange also offering some assistance. Yet despite their strength in numbers, by the start of the next climb, Passo dello Spluga, the leaders had retained their lead of around 20 seconds.

That gap extended on the climb up to towards a minute, as Bilbao and Storer set a fast tempo that only their respective teammates Caruso and Bardet were capable of following. Ineos Grenadiers kept calm, not wanting to burn themselves out by panicking, but were reduced to just three riders, with only Castroviejo and Martinez left to protect Bernal.

At the top the leaders' advantage was 43 seconds.

Light rain further complicated what was already a technical descent, and in the peloton Alexander Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) took it upon himself to come to the front and lead them down. He caused a few temporary splits, but Ineos Grenadiers were able to regain control with Castroviejo resuming the pace-setting, and kept the gap at around 40 seconds.

The gap remained at that distance by the start of the final climb, at which point Castroviejo at long last swung off to allow Martinez to begin his turn.

It wasn't long until Storer and then Bilbao were finished in the break, leaving it up to Caruso and Bardet to make the most of the head start they brought to the climb.

Upon taking control of the peloton, Martinez did more great work for Bernal, climbing fast enough so that only he, Yates, Vlasov, Carthy and Almeida remained, and not allowing Caruso and Bardet's lead to grow out any more.

Still flying, Martinez began to bring back the leaders while also one-by-one dropping Carthy, then Vlasov, then Yates and then finally Almeida.

Caruso dropped Bardet 2km from the top, but by now his lead over the chasing Martinez and Bernal was just a precarious 20 seconds.

Martinez at last finished his turn in the final kilometre, at which point Bernal set off in pursuit of Caruso. But Caruso had enjoyed a second wind since dropping Bardet, and retained a big enough advantage over Bernal to celebrate victory at the line.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious 4:27:53
2Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:24
3Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:35
4Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM
5João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:41
6Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange 0:00:51
7Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech 0:01:13
8Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo 0:01:29
9Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team 0:02:07
10Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:23
11Jan Hirt (Cze) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
12Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma 0:02:37
13Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
14Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation 0:03:10
15George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma 0:03:42
16Vadim Pronskiy (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech
17Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious 0:04:08
18Einer Rubio Reyes (Col) Movistar Team 0:04:10
19Harold Tejada Canacue (Col) Astana-Premier Tech 0:04:44
20Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:05:29
21Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team BikeExchange 0:06:01
22Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:06:25
23Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team 0:06:41
24Michael Storer (Aus) Team DSM 0:06:46
25Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ 0:06:50
26Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
27Simone Petilli (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:06:55
28Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:06:56
29Matteo Badilatti (Swi) Groupama-FDJ 0:07:00
30Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec 0:07:33
31Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:08:02
32Mauro Schmid (Swi) Team Qhubeka Assos
33James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep
34Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:08:15
35Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers 0:08:18
36Edward Ravasi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team 0:09:05
37Giovanni Carboni (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:12:28
38Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:13:42
39Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
40Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
41Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
42Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
43Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
44Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
45Tanel Kangert (Est) Team BikeExchange
46Larry Warbasse (USA) AG2R Citroën Team 0:14:00
47Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team 0:14:18
48Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:14:30
49Simon Guglielmi (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:14:53
50Davide Villella (Ita) Movistar Team 0:14:55
51Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:17:58
52Senne Leysen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
53Guy Niv (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation
54Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
55Simon Pellaud (Swi) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
56Gianni Moscon (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers 0:18:01
57Kilian Frankiny (Swi) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:18:47
58Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:20:13
59Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team 0:22:06
60Matteo Sobrero (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
61Patrick Bevin (NZl) Israel Start-up Nation 0:22:10
62Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:22:18
63Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-Nippo 0:24:06
64Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
65Paul Martens (Ger) Jumbo-Visma 0:24:25
66Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-Nippo 0:24:59
67Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education-Nippo
68Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team
69Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team DSM 0:25:38
70Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:26:43
71Simone Ravanelli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
72Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange 0:27:09
73Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers 0:27:55
74Filippo Zana (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane' 0:28:25
75Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
76Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
77Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën Team
78Márton Dina (Hun) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team 0:29:50
79Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
80Giovanni Aleotti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:31:17
81Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
82Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain Victorious
83Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Bahrain Victorious
84Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
85Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
86Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'
87Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Qhubeka Assos
88Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
89Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:31:37
90Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ
91Lars van den Berg (Ned) Groupama-FDJ
92Mark Christian (GBr) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team
93Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:31:39
94Andrii Ponomar (Ukr) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
95Davide Gabburo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'