Stage 17 of the 2021 Giro revealed the first cracks in Bernal, as he was dropped by an attacking Simon Yates (BikeExchange) and desperately fought his way to the summit of Sega di Ala to limit time losses.
Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) has been one of the most unexpected performers of this year’s race, having held onto the podium since stage 11 and now sitting second overall with four stages remaining.
On stage 17, the 33-year-old found himself in a strong position to gain time as Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) suffered on the double-digit gradients of the final climb, with Caruso riding alongside the maglia rosa for much of the ascent.
Speaking after the stage Caruso, who sprinted to gain three seconds on Bernal at the finish, said: “Today was one of the hardest stages of this Giro. The last hour and a half was really full gas, especially the last climb, which was super hard, and as I expected, Yates attacked, and he made the difference on the last climb. But I felt good, and even then, I kept my tempo to the finish, and the gap was quite okay and under control.
“Well, I couldn’t follow him, so, in any case, I didn’t have any options left but to keep my tempo. Then when I saw the maglia rosa, Bernal, suffering like me, my morale went up because I realised that it is really hard for all of us at this moment.”
After the tough mountain stage Bernal maintained his race lead, holding a 2-21 advantage to Caruso, and 3-23 to Yates, who gained around a minute with his 3km attack.
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