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