Five talking points from stage 21 of the Giro d'Italia 2021

The final talking points from the 104th Giro d'Italia

Filippo Ganna on stage 21 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia
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Egan Bernal crowned Giro d’Italia champion

Egan Bernal

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There was no late surprise or turnaround on the final day of the Giro d’Italia, as Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) put in a solid time trial to seal overall victory by 1-29 ahead of Damiano Caurso (Bahrain-Victorious) in second-place.

After all the attention on his fading legs earlier this week, and on Dani Martínez’s heroics as a domestique yesterday, it’s about time we took stock and reflected on Bernal outstanding personal achievement in completing overall victory today.

The Colombian has had to overcome a lot to get here, most significantly a back injury that had put an abrupt to his early rise to stardom. There were even concerns that that lingering problem might prevent him from ever reaching the same level as at the 2019 Tour de France, but those doubts were happily put to bed this month, during which time he looked an even better version of the man who won the Tour two years ago.

It’s easy to forget that Bernal is still only 24, and seeing him on the podium to pick up the white jersey as the race’s best young rider was a pointed reminder of just how much he has already achieved at such a young age. By winning the Giro, he becomes the youngest rider since Laurent Fignon to win a second Grand Tour. 

To do so having had such injury problems underlines what a special rider he is, and more success surely awaits in the future. 

Ganna punctures, still wins the stage

Filippo Ganna on stage 21 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Ineos Grenadiers riders were busy during the podium ceremonies today, as Bernal celebrated his victories in the pink and white jersey classifications, the whole team were awarded the team classification, and Filippo Ganna won the stage

In what was another great race for the team, Ganna claimed what was his second and the team’s fourth stage win of the race, which means the team also led the race for most stage wins. 

That also means Ganna has now won five consecutive time trial stages at the Giro following his hat-trick of wins against the clock in last year’s edition, a truly remarkable run that underlines his outstanding ability against the clock. 

It seems Ganna is so dominant in this discipline that he can even afford to puncture and still take victory. For most riders a mechanical would be enough to end any hope of winning a time trial stage, but Ganna was going so quickly that he was still able to post a time that was 12 seconds quicker than Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in second and 13 seconds quicker than Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) in third after receiving a quick bike change in the final kilometres of his ride. 

The tifosi might lament going a fifth successive year without an Italian winner of the pink jersey — the longest drought the nation has endured since the 1990s — but Ganna’s ongoing success is some consolation. 

Crash robs Cavagna of golden opportunity 

Remi Cavagna on stage 21 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia

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It wasn’t just Ganna who had problems when chasing the stage win today.

Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) might just have beaten the Italian had he himself not suffered disaster in the final stages, when he appeared taken by surprise at a corner, totally failing to take the right line and heading straight into the barrier ahead of him.  

Thankfully the Frenchman was physically unhurt, but he’ll lament missing a rare chance to beat Ganna in a time trial, and at yet again failing to win a stage having tried hard this Giro.

Just three days ago he was out on the attack in the breakaway, and appeared on course for victory until his legs began to fail him on the final climbs. 

At least today he still managed to finish his second, his highest ever Giro stage finish. But as someone who always rides on the front foot, and generally takes risks in order to win rather than settle for a high placing, he’ll still be disappointed with this result.  

Caruso and Yates finish on the podium

The final podium at the 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Standing either side of Bernal on the podium was Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) and Simon Yates (BikeExchange), who finished second and third respectively.

How they feel about those positions was reflected in their contrasting facial expressions on the podium. Caruso wore a wide, beaming smile, as befitting someone who had defied expectations to finish second overall, six places higher than the best of his previous 13 Grand Tour appearances. 

Yates, by contrast, appeared more muted. While that partly reflects Yates’ general inexpressive demeanour, it’s likely he would have hoped for more from this Giro, especially after dropping Bernal five days ago on Sega di Ala.

Still, a podium finish certainly partly exercises his past demons at this race, where for all his great rides and stage wins he’d never before finished higher than eighth on GC. But the oft-referred to ‘unfinished business’ he has at the Giro may remain unresolved until he finishes not just on the podium, but on the top step. 

Sagan and Bouchard confirmed as the other jersey winners

Peter Sagan at the 2021 Giro d'Italia

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All Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën) had to do to confirm victory in the points and mountains classifications respectively was to complete the time trial course within the time limit, meaning both could afford to soak in the atmosphere and reflect on what they’ve achieved.

For Sagan, winning points classifications is hardly anything new, but this was a landmark moment in his career as it is his first at the Giro d’Italia. He made his debut at the Giro last year hoping to do so, but could not overcome Arnaud Démare, but the absence this year of a sprinter as dominant as the Frenchman was paved the way for his consistency to win the maglia ciclamino.  

Having also lost the green jersey to Sam Bennett at last year’s Tour de France, this is the first Grand Tour points classification he’s won in almost two years. He had to fight for it, even incurring a fine for intimidation while ensuring no-one dared chase down a big breakaway that would neutralise the race for points on stage 18, but the result proves he’s still got it at the highest level. 

For Bouchard, victory here is the second time he’s won a King of the Mountains classification at a Grand Tour following his success at the 2019 Vuelta a España. As a good climber who loves attacking, he’s the typical profile of a winner of this classification, and even if he’s not the purest climber, the way he battled for points and constantly went on the attack makes him a worthy winner. 

Having only turned pro in 2019, the 29-year-old has carved a niche for himself as a winner of mountains classifications — maybe an attempt at completing the full set at his home Grand Tour is next on the cards for the Frenchman?