While live TV audiences may have missed it thanks to the struggling TV coverage in the Dolomites, Bernal was simply unmatched as he attacked 4km from the top of the climb and 21km from the line.
The next time viewers saw him was as he sailed into the final 500m with a healthy 30-second lead over the chasing Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) and Romain Bardet (Team DSM), looking as though he had plenty left to give despite the horrendous weather conditions he'd just competed in. The race leader even had enough in the tank to take off his rain jacket and display the maglia rosa as he crossed the line in Cortina d'Ampezzo, sealing an undeniably special day for him and his Ineos Grenadiers team.
Bernal, just 24 and winner of the Tour de France in 2019, saw his potential questioned by onlookers after he struggled through the 2020 Tour before abandoning with a back injury, which he has been working to treat ever since. Speaking after the finish on Monday, Bernal said he wanted to show he was "back in the game" after a challenging season last year.
"It’s a great victory, and with the maglia rosa, it’s special so I wanted to show it," Bernal said.
"It's not every day you win a stage of the Giro with the maglia rosa. In order to respect the jersey."
"I wanted to do something special," he added. "I wanted to show I am back in the game, the team believed in me during this stage and I just tried to go and to do something special.
"It was hard but of course when the race is hard due to the weather you need to be hard also. I had that mentality at the beginning of the race and it was a day to suffer. And then we did it."
Bernal sits with a comfortable 2-24 lead on second place Caruso and 3-40 on third place Hugh Carthy (EF-Nippo), with five-stage remaining. The Colombian has looked imperious throughout the race, with the opening time trial the only stage in which he has conceded time to the other overall contenders, and looks well-placed to seal his second Grand Tour victory despite the 30km time trial that ends the race in Milan this Sunday.
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