Egan Bernal showed the first signs of cracking on stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia 2021 as he lost around a minute to Simon Yates and João Almeida, with Dan Martin taking the stage win from the breakway.
Yates (BikeExchange) went on the attack on the steepest gradient of the summit finish to Sega di Ala, following a move by Almeida (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) with Bernal and Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) able to follow to begin with before the pink jersey lost touch.
Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) held off the chasing peloton on the final climb after going on the attack from the day's main break right at the base to ride to victory.
Bernal retains the overall lead but has shown that this race is by no means done with four stages remaining.
How it happened
The 17th stage of the 2021 Giro d'Italia started in Canazei before taking on two steep climbs to finish on the Sega di Ala after 193km.
It took a long time for the breakaway to get away but it did eventually go clear with 19 riders making up the front group. They held around five minutes to the chasing peloton led by Team BikeExchange.
The mountains classification leader Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), James Knox (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) all made the break along with 15 other riders.
Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) battled with Bouchard for the mountain points as well as going for the intermediate sprints along with Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché) as the Belgian champion was aiming for points in the combativity prize.
The break hit the base of the second categorised climb of the day with 53km to go, the Passo di San Valentino (15.1km at an average of 7.6 per cent), which was the highest point of the stage at 1331 metres, 1000 metres lower than stage 16.
Behind, Ineos Grenadiers, Trek-Segafredo, Astana-Premier Tech and Deceuninck - Quick-Step swamped BikeExchange on the entrance to the climb before the Australian squad retook the lead of the bunch.
The change in pace on the climb meant that seven riders were immediately shelled out of the back of the break and peloton with 48km to go and a gap of 3-20 between the two. One of the first dropped was Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step).
Martin seemed most keen to keep the pace high in the breakaway but the peloton continued to bring the gap down with just two minutes splitting the groups. The Irishman’s pace dropped all but four riders with Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), Antonio Pedrero (Movistar), Matteo Badilatti (Groupama-FDJ) with Bouchard chasing ahead of the rest of the break.
The pace continued to stay high with Moscon and Pedrero the only two riders left on his wheel. Mikel Nieve and Tanel Kangert (both BikeExchange) were hammering the pace back in the peloton for their leader Yates, whittling down the peloton with 40km to go.
Bouchard made it to the leaders again and went over the top of the San Valentino climb taking maximum points and then led down the descent.
Back in the rear of the peloton, there was a crash involving Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Evenepoel with the Belgian looking like he was hurt but he did carry on. Vincenzo Nibali and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (both Trek-Segafredo) also went down and were slower to get going.
Ciccone was left to chase on his own and changed his bike once he was back in the cars. Pieter Serry and Knox then dropped back from the break to support Joao Almeida (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) which made it a bit more difficult for Ciccone to get back in, but the Italian climber did manage to get back with 14km to go.
Back at the front, Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani) and Simone Ravanelli (Androni) rejoined the leaders as they worked hard to get to the bottom of the final climb of Sega di Ala. They held a 2-00 gap over the peloton.
Martin dropped everyone at the base of the Sega di Ala (11.3km with an average gradient of 9.7 per cent) climb as Ineos Grenadiers took over the pacing on the front of the peloton with Jonathan Castroviejo setting the tempo on a gradient of 16 per cent.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Ciccone both lost touch but were just hanging at about 10 bike lengths with Vadim Pronskiy working for Vlasov. Ciccone continued to slip out of the back after putting in a lot of effort on the valley bottom.
The pace continued and with just over 5km to go Romain Bardet (DSM) and Hugh Carthy (EF-Nippo) started losing touch with Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) also losing a bit of ground with George Bennett supporting him. Carthy had Alberto Bettiol with him and Bardet had Michael Storer with him.
Moscon eventually dropped back to support Bernal as Almeida went on the attack with Yates kicking on after him. Bernal and Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) at that point were able to follow Yates' move. Caruso was left chasing on his own, before Almeida attacked again with Yates kicking past him.
Yates continued his pace and dropped the race leader with Almeida following initially, but the Portuguese rider struggled on the steepest gradient before pulling his way back to the British rider.
Martin was holding on up front with 28 seconds over Yates going into the final 2km as Caruso caught up with Bernal and Martínez. The Italian came to the front and worked.
Martin eventually held on and took the stage ahead of Almeida who attacked Yates in the final kilometre putting a few seconds into Yates who took around a minute to Bernal.
The Giro d'Italia continues with stage 18 on Thursday, the longest of the race. The stage is predominantly flat over its 231km, but features some short and punchy climbs as the end which will favour late attacks and breakaways.
Giro d'Italia 2021, stage 17: Canazei to Sega di Ala (193km)
1. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, in 4-54-38
2. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 13 seconds
3. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, at 30s
4. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-20
5. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
6. Daniel Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-23
7. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
8. Antonio Pedrero (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1-38
9. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-43
10. George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma, at 2-21
General classification after stage 17
1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, in 71-32-05
2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 2-21
3. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange, at 3-23
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech, at 6-03
5. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo, at 6-09
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 6-31
7. Dani Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 7-17
8. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 8-45
9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 9-18
10. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 11-06.
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