Egan Bernal wins the Giro d’Italia title after the last stage of the time trial in Milan | Giro d’Italia
Following the 2020 disruption, the first Grand Tour of the cycling season, the Giro d’Italia, marked a return to something akin to business as usual, with Team Ineos’ Egan Bernal taking the win. Despite a few issues over the past week, Bernal fended off the final challenges of Damiano Caruso and Simon Yates, thanks in large part to the strength of the team with the biggest cycling budget.
For Ineos, racing marked a return to the dominant steamroller style that has earned them 12 Grand Tours over the past 10 years. Thanks to Bernal and one of their strongest team riders, Filippo Ganna, they led the Giro through 16 of the race’s 21 stages and this collective show of force was concluded in the time trial. Sunday in Milan where Ganna won her second stage victory in the race after her opening victory in Turin, despite a puncture.
Bernal’s victory marked a welcome return to form for the Colombian, who won the 2019 Tour de France but was forced to leave last year’s edition due to a back injury. It was a slow victory where he took a slim lead on the summit finish of the ninth stage at Campo Felice and gradually built on that at every opportunity, especially in stage 11 on the dirt roads of Tuscany – where the Ganna’s support was instrumental – before hitting the killer. hit on Monday’s shortened stage through the Dolomites to Cortina.
In the last tough race of the mountain stages he was rocked by Yates and Caruso, with his sudden collapse in the final kilometers of Wednesday’s climb to Sega di Ala leaving room for doubt about his form. The ship was however stabilized on Friday and Saturday at the top of the mountains, where the Lancastrian and the Italian took well-deserved stage victories to claim their place on the podium.
The 24-year-old Colombian owed a lot to his team-mate and compatriot Dani Martínez, signed by Ineos this winter, who secured fifth place overall while supporting Bernal. The defining image of the race, for many, will remain that of Martínez, fist clenched, turning to cheer on his team manager as he struggled to the finish at Sega di Ala.
Martínez was instrumental when Caruso staged a long-range attack on the Splugen Pass during Saturday’s mountain stage. Along with Spaniard Jonathan Castroviejo, he ensured that Caruso’s lead never exceeded one minute during his roughly 50-kilometer breakout; while it was Martínez who put in the accelerations that dislodged Yates on the climb to the finish and allowed Bernal to get closer to less than 25 seconds from Caruso.
It gained importance on Sunday when the Italian reduced his deficit by 30 seconds; Without Martínez’s help the day before, the last 30 kilometers in Milan would have been a much more stressful affair for Bernal. Discreetly consistent support driver, although one with three Grand Tour top 10 finishes to his name, Caruso entered the gap left by his Bahrain-Victorious leader Mikel Landa, who crashed early; At 33, the Italian’s stage victory on Saturday was the first major victory in a career that began in 2009.
He was one of 13 riders who will remember this Giro for their first stage victory in a Grand Tour; that’s a large number for any recent edition of the “Big Three” stage cyclists, reflecting a more open and aggressive side of racing in the Covid era.
Yates was hampered by a relatively calm two-week opening to a race he had specifically targeted, and his challenge fell flat on Monday’s stage at Cortina, where he lost much of his possible deficit of 4min 15sec to Bernal. However, he ultimately laid the ghost of his epic defeat to Chris Froome in 2018, and is expected to come back stronger and wiser in a race that should remain within his grasp for several years to come. The same can be said of his compatriot Lancastrian Hugh Carthy, who passed out last week but still placed eighth overall, after his third place in the Tour of Spain last year.
Bernal will not take part in the Tour de France this year, but this week the Criterium du Dauphiné will give an indication of the suitability of the likely leaders of the Tour d’Ineos, Geraint Thomas and Tao Goeghegan-Hart, who – along with Chris Froome – are in search of Great Great Britain’s eighth race victory since 2011. During the first stage starting and finishing in the Auvergne town of Issoire, won by the Belgian Brent van Moer, all three finished in full safety in a peloton reduced to only 80 on a hilly course.