Damiano Caruso won stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia after a brave attack that saw him secure his second-place in the overall classification. Egan Bernal finished second on the stage, meaning that barring a disaster in tomorrow's stage 21 time trial in Milan he will be wearing the maglia rosa on the final podium.
Yates lost time after being distanced on the final climb, Bernal's team-mate Daniel Martínez driving the pace to deliver his leader safely to the finish.
Caruso had moved off the front of the GC group on the descent of the first San Bernadino climb with around 50km to go alongside team-mate Pello Bilbao, following a move by Team DSM to try and set up Romain Bardet.
Bardet and Caruso were the last two escapees up the road until the Frenchman cracked, leaving Caruso to keep Bernal and the GC contenders at bay as he crossed the line to win his first-ever Giro stage and only the third victory of his professional career.
More to follow...
How it happened
How it happened
Fabio Felline wasn’t on the start line as he raced off to greet his daughter who had just been born, while Egan Bernal avoided the media before the start, Filippo Ganna’s dog visiting the race as a distraction, his leader dialled in and ready to protect his maglia rosa.
The intermediate sprint was the first point of action for the day, Fernando Gaviria attacking multiple times to try and get himself into a move in order to get him not only some more sprint points but also maybe give him a better buffer for the time limit over the climbs to come.
Sagan was satisfied to watch Gaviria and Davide Cimolai pick up a few points each, his lead in the maglia ciclamino safe.
Finally, a move managed to get away, Vincenzo Nibali doing his best to get up the road, but it was a cast of familiar faces who made it up the road in a group of nine, including Taco Van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Dries De Bondt, Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix), Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) and Simon Pellaud (Androni-Sidermec), who had now done enough to secure the prize for most kilometres spent in the breakaway this Italian Grand Tour.
Soon their gap was up to around the five-minute mark, BikeExchange and Deceuninck - Quick-Step eventually getting stuck in with chase efforts.
With 80km to go the gap was down to below four minutes as they started the first climb of the day, the passo San Bernadino, a 23.7km slog and the first of three category one climbs to close out the final road stage of the race.
Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix) forged on ahead of the break, two Italians in Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè) and Vincenzo Albanese (EOLO-Kometa) then joining, Pellaud also making it across.
Behind, DSM took it up for Romain Bardet on the climb, shelling riders out the back of the peloton as snow began to appear at the side of the roads, and over the top three riders from the German team pressed on, gapping the peloton and soon joined by Caruso and Pello Bilbao.
Ineos were now forced to chase, but the 30-second gap was holding as the rain came down on the approach to the second climb of the day, the passo di Spluga.
Up the climb Bernal was soon down to three team-mates as Salvatore Puccio and Gianni Moscon were used up, Vervaeke pulling for DSM up ahead before he fell away and Bilbao took on the responsibility, Michael Storer also chipping in as the ability and need of good team-mates was put on display whichever group you looked at.
The GC group continued to thin out on the climb, only 45 seconds behind the Caruso and Bardet group at the summit, the descent now treacherous due to the rain, Alexandr Vlasov (Astana) putting in a dig.
10km to go and Castroviejo was on the front for Bernal, the final climb approaching and Martínez being kept for the final push to the finish line. Up ahead Storer was dropped, just Bilbao left now to pull on the final climb, Caruso then patting him on the back when he soon fell away, 6km to go now.
With 35 seconds the gap, Bardet was battling to stay on Caruso’s wheel, Martínez’s pace behind neutering any attacks for the timebeing, and soon Almeida and Vlasov were dropped.
Caruso and Bardet’s lead was down to 25 seconds into the final 3km as the gradient increased, before the Italian dropped the Frenchman, going off in search of the stage victory.
Yates then could handle the pace no longer, on a bad day and not having the legs to push Bernal on this final mountain day.
The crowds were magnificent as Caruso fought the gradient, willing him on in number as he desperately tried to keep Bernal and company at bay, which he did, crossing the line first with Bernal following along behind soon after, his maglia rosa all but confirmed.
Giro d’Italia 2021, stage 20: Verbania to Valle Spluga-Alpe Motta (164km)
1. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, in 4-27-53
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 24 seconds
3. Daniel Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 35s
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at same time
5. Joao Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 41s
6. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, at 51s
7. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 1-13
8. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-29
9. Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) EOLO-Kometa, at 2-07, at 2-07
10. Antonio Pedrero (Esp) Movistar, at 2-23
General classification after stage 20
1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, in 85-41-47
2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-59
3. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExhange, at 3-23
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 7-07
5. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 7-48
6. Daniel Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 7-56
7. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 8-22
8. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 8-50
9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma, at 12-39
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 16-48
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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