Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has looked untouchable throughout this race in inclement weather with Yates (BikeExchange) looking in poor form when the weather was bad. But stage 17 saw bright sunshine all day.
Speaking after the race, Bernal said: “Today was a tough day for me for sure. The last kilometres were really steep, I tried to follow Yates but today he was stronger than me. Then I just tried to follow Caruso who is the closest in the GC. I don’t want to take any risk. Today Yates was impressive, but I just did my best.
“I’m happy because I didn’t lose too much time with Yates on today's stage. Today was perfect for him and then with Caruso, I lost just a few metres so, just a bad day where I lost almost nothing to second on GC and I have some advantage with Yates. If I win the Giro with one second or two minutes for me it would be the same.”
Yates attacked to bridge up to João Almeida (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) who had already gone on the offensive. This dragged Bernal and main domestique Dani Martínez with him.
Yates and Bernal continued to share blows with Yates using the steepest gradient to really turn the screw dropping everyone. Almeida did make it back to the Brit on shallower slopes.
Before then, other riders in the top-10 battle had gone out of the back with Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), Romain Bardet (DSM), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) all losing touch.
Martínez was very keen to encourage his fellow Colombian Bernal to pick up the pace but the leader of the race seemed unable to do so.
The Giro d'Italia is no stranger to drama in the final week of the race with almost all of the last editions seeing the lead of the race changed in the last few stages. Most dramatically so when Chris Froome (then Team Sky) distanced Yates and everyone else to win the stage and the race on stage 19 in 2018.
Yates will perhaps be looking for revenge against Sky, now Ineos Grenadiers, as he looks to come back from a similar distance.
But it will have to wait a day as stage 18 of the race looks to be one for the sprinters or a breakaway as the longest stage of the entire race, 231km from Rovereto to Stradella.
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