Egan Bernal and his team put in a superb ride over the gravel roads in Tuscany to extend his lead in the overall standings. The day's early breakaway held on for the stage with Mauro Schmid (Qhubeka-Assos) taking the win.
Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) had his team on the front all day but it was Filippo Ganna who hit the front with Bernal on his wheel as they hit the gravel sectors, immediately putting riders like Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) in difficulty.
An 11-man break got away very early and pulled out a huge gap to battle it out for the stage. The Swiss youngster Schmid beat Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) in a two-up sprint to the line.
But the day was mainly about the riders battling for the race overall with Ineos Grenadiers dominating the first section of gravel, causing havoc. They continued this over the other three sectors putting their closest rival, Remco Evenepoel out of the back with 20km to go, with the Belgian eventually losing over two minutes to Bernal.
Irish hope, Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) lost over six minutes to Bernal and now sits 18th overall at 7-06 down.
How it happened
The opening stage of the second week in the Giro d’Italia 2021 would be a crucial one with four large sections of gravel through the hills of Tuscany on the 162km route between Perugia and Montalcino.
An 11-man break went up the road very quickly and pulled out a maximum gap of around 14 minutes, with all the riders well over half-an-hour down on the pink jersey.
The riders to make the break were Belgian champion Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), Lawrence Naesen (Ag2r-Citroën), Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani), Francesco Gavazzi (Eolo-Kometa), Simon Guglielmi (Groupama-FDJ), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché), Covi, Roger Kluge, Harm Vanhoucke (both Lotto-Soudal), Schmid and Bert-Jan Lindeman (both Qhubeka-Assos).
Ineos Grenadiers, unsurprisingly, led the peloton and controlled the pace for their leader, Bernal who wore pink for the second day in his career.
With 10km until the first section of gravel, multiple teams joined Ineos up front including Team DSM, Israel Start-Up Nation, Trek-Segafredo and Astana-Premier Tech, as the tension started to rise.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step also came up to the front just before they hit the gravel with Remco Evenepoel safely placed at the front and surrounded by his team-mates. Bora-Hansgrohe suddenly emerged and hammered the pace up for Peter Sagan along with Jumbo-Visma.
Ineos led onto the gravel though with Filippo Ganna holding the position with Egan Bernal sat on his wheel. Hugh Carthy’s EF Education-Nippo also did an excellent job of positioning the Brit on the front.
Ganna managed to drag Bernal away from the rest of the peloton with riders like Evenepoel and Simon Yates (BikeExchange) way down the group with splits appearing all over the road. Ganna very nearly crashed as Sagan started to hammer it on the front with the gap to the break dropping five minutes on the first sector of gravel.
After the first section, Ineos had help from Movistar as Marc Soler made the split. Thirty seconds behind, Deceuninck - Quick-Step, Astana-Premier Tech, and EF Education-Nippo were all chasing for their leaders with 50km to go.
The chasers managed to get back to the pink jersey group with Evenepoel doing the last bit of the chasing to drag himself back to the Bernal group, as he was isolated with 47km to go. Meanwhile, the gap to the break had dropped to 9-15.
Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) led what remained of the peloton onto the second of four gravel sections for his leader Giulio Ciccone before he was replaced by Ineos again with Jhonatan Narváez and Gianni Moscon looking after Bernal as Ganna dropped away.
Interestingly, Groupama-FDJ came to the front on the steepest point of the gravel climb at 16 per cent with Sagan slipping out of the back. Luis León Sánchez (Astana-Premier Tech) then took up the pacing for Aleksandr Vlasov with 40km to go.
The biggest losers in the GC looked to be Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) and Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) as they were not in the peloton with no time gaps shown for them.
Suddenly, George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma came to the front as he worked for his leader Tobias Foss and very quickly made a gap. Ineos, Astana-Premier Tech and Movistar upped the pace back in the peloton which dragged Bennett and Foss back with 21km to go.
Bernal then went to the front to force the pace as Evenepoel had lost touch but continued to battle. Evenepoel’s team-mate João Almeida was still in the main GC group and eventually did drop back for his leader with 13km to go. Moscon moved to the front to work for Bernal 20 seconds in front of the Belgian.
Soler was the first to have a kick on the final gravel section before Vlasov tried but all the GC riders were able to follow. Alberto Bettiol (EF-Nippo) came up to help Carthy in the final 10km with Evenepoel just over a minute down.
Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the first GC rider who managed to get a gap with an attack on the day's final, tarmacked climb, as Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Soler both lost touch along with Ciccone.
EF Education-Nippo were working hard for Carthy with Bettiol and Ruben Guerreiro pushing the pace with just five other riders left in the GC group, but then Bernal attacked with Vlasov trying to follow, the Colombian going clear over the top of the climb with 4.5km to go, dropping everyone and catching Buchmann. Bernal even dropped the German on the final kick to the line.
Schmid took the stage after out-sprinting Covi to the line with Vanhoucke coming in third place on the day. But Schmid’s victory will be overshadowed by Bernal’s performance as the Colombian now leads Vlasov by 45 seconds with Evenepoel dropping to seventh at 2-22.
Stage 12 is another day of climbing with four categorised climbs befoe a flat finish after a descent on a 212km route from Siena to Bagno di Romagna.
Giro d'Italia 2021, stage 11: Perugia to Montalcino (162km)
1. Mauro Schmid (Sui) Team Qhubeka-Assos, in 4-01-55
2. Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 1 second
3. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 26s
4. Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix, at 41s
5. Simon Guglielmi (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at same time
6. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè, at 44s
7. Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, at 1-23
8. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) EOLO-Kometa, at 1-37
9. Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 1-43
10. Lawrence Naesen (Bel) Ag2r-Citroën Team, at 1-59
General classification after stage 11
1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers. in 42-35-21
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 45s
3. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-12
4. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-17
5. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, at 1-22
6. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-50
7. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 2-22
8. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-24
9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 2-49
10. Daniel Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 3-15
Rest of the race favourites in the GC
11. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar Team, at 3-19
12. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 3-29
13. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ, at 3-51
14. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 4-11
17. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 7-04
18. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 7-06
19. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 7-16.
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