British star Yates is hoping to take the maglia rosa from Bernal’s shoulders in the pivotal final stages of the 2021 Giro, and went on the offensive again on the penultimate mountain stage.
After attacking 6km from the summit of Alpe di Mera, Yates went clear of Bernal and Ineos Grenadiers to win his first stage of this year’s Giro.
But with one more road stage remaining the job isn’t done for Yates, as he still sits third overall, with a 2-49 deficit to Bernal.
Speaking after the finish of stage 19, Yates said: “I’m really happy. The team did a fantastic job today, controlled at the start, worked a lot and I managed to finish it off.
“I saw the boys from Ineos, they were happy to ride at tempo behind [after João Almeida attacked] and I had a feeling they would let me go today.
“I read something from Egan on Twitter about how they would be more conservative and control rather than try to go with me.
“I had a feeling they would let me go and as soon as I attacked I saw I was correct, so I just tried to ride full gas and that was it.”
Yates has been focused on winning this year’s Giro d’Italia, and has clawed his way back onto the podium after some time losses in bad weather during the middle week.
But after attacking Bernal on stage 17 to Sega di Ala and gaining some time, Yates picked up another 28 seconds on Bernal and 32 to Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), who is second overall.
With one mountain stage remaining before the final time trial in Milan, Yates needs to make up 20 seconds on Caruso to move into second, and 2-49 on Bernal if he wants to take over the leader’s jersey before the TT.
On his chances of taking pink, Yates said: "I tried to do my best today. It wasn’t the most difficult of stages, a very difficult final climb. Tomorrow is very different, a very hard stage, back in the high altitude so we’ll see what I can do.
"I’m just doing my best at the moment, and I’m happy with the stage win."
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