Much of what happened on stage 16 of the Giro d’Italia will remain shrouded in mystery.
The horrible conditions that forced organizers to pull the Passo Pordoi and Passo Fedaia from the route meant the helicopters and planes that broadcast the race pictures couldn’t take off.
What we do know is that Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) brought down another hammer blow on his rivals, attacking on the upper slopes of the Passo Giau to storm to his second stage win of the race.
There was nobody to be seen behind him as he rolled into Cortina d’Ampezzo well ahead of any of the other GC contenders. Bernal holds an increasingly comfortable lead in the pink jersey, increasing his advantage to 2:24.
Behind him, Damiano Caruso continued to enjoy the form of his life to move up to second overall after Simon Yates tumbled down the standings. He crossed the line with Romain Bardet who appears to be making a comeback in the final week.
Are you still confused about what happened? This is how the GC looks after Monday’s mysterious stage 16.
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 24, 2021
The GC movers and shakers
Egan Bernal (+0) 66:36:04
Damiano Caruso (+1) +02:24
Hugh Carthy (+2) +03:40
Aleksandr Vlasov (+0) +04:18
Simon Yates (-3) +04:20
Giulio Ciccone (+0) +04:31
Romain Bardet (+2) +05:02
Daniel Martínez (+0) +07:17
Tobias Foss (+1) +08:20
João Almeida (+3) +10:01
Davide Formolo (+3) +12:35
Dan Martin (+0) +15:10
Attila Valter (-2) +16:23
George Bennett (+2) +18:10
Vincenzo Nibali (+2) +21:50
Bernal in imperious form
Egan Bernal’s pink jersey challenge is far from over, but the young Colombian is looking increasingly comfortable in it. Bernal’s confidence was such that he had the presence of mind and the time to remove his rain jacket to celebrate his stage win with the maglia rosa on full show.
He said afterward that he had wanted to cross the line in pink to send the message that he was back. Whoever that message was to, it was loud and clear.
The fragile and struggling Bernal of 2020 is a long and distant memory as the Ineos Grenadiers rider smashes every obstacle that comes before him in Italy.
Just exactly how his all-conquering ride came to be is largely unclear, but he pushed clear some way up the Passo Giau. Initially taking Hugh Carthy with him, it wasn’t long before Bernal was alone – as he has been many a mountain stage so far in this Giro d’Italia.
What Bernal might have been capable of doing if the stage had gone the full 212km will remain a tantalizing mystery — one which his rivals will be happy they did not have to discover. Though he may have been able to do even more damage to his competitors on the originally planned route, perhaps a shorter day in the rain might pay off for Bernal as the final week progressed.
With three more big mountain stages and a time trial in Milan, there is still a lot of road to cover before he can be declared the winner.
𝗖𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀𝘆 𝗿𝗶𝗱𝗲 [/ˈklɑːsi/ /rʌɪd/]: pic.twitter.com/y8QdvdvsGh
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) May 24, 2021
Deceuninck-Quick-Step changing of the guard
As João Almeida slipped down the GC in the rain during the opening week of the Giro d’Italia, it looked as if Remco Evenepoel would be Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s only hope for a solid result in the overall standings.
Indeed, the team adjusted its battle plan and Almeida was set to work for his Belgian teammate. He has had to drop back to help Evenepoel several times during the second week of racing, seemingly to the chagrin of the Portuguese.
After a difficult day on the Monte Zoncolan on Saturday, Evenepoel had signaled he would no longer be in the GC fight. The cracks in Evenepoel’s GC bid widened to breaking point Monday and he ultimately lost a whopping 24 minutes on the pink jersey.
Thanks in part to making it into the early breakaway, Almeida regained some of the time lost earlier in the race and he now holds the torch of GC hopeful for Deceuninck-Quick-Step.
General classification musical chairs
Another day in the mountains and another round of musical chairs within the top 10. With plenty of meters of altitude still to come before the time trial at the end of the week, no position within the top 10 feels certain – except for maybe Bernal’s maglia rosa.
Caruso is still having the race of his career and is on course to give Bahrain-Victorious strong GC results, despite the team losing Mikel Landa in the first week. His ascendancy has not been showy or flashy, but a depiction of grit and determination as he grinds away up each climb.
He will have a lot on his plate over the next week as he tried to fend off challenges from the rest of the top 10 for the podium places. If he can hold on, it will beat his previous best grand tour finish of eighth at the 2015 Giro d’Italia by a considerable margin.
Caruso came home in third place on the stage, just behind Bardet — who was probably the biggest winner, after Bernal, in the overall standings. Like Almeida, Bardet struggled in the first week, but he has been finding his climbing legs ever since and he could be a big threat for the podium as the week progresses.
After looking to be in the ascendancy on the Monte Zoncolan on Saturday, Simon Yates tumbled back down the standings after cracking on the Giau. He rolled into Cortina d’Ampezzo 2:37 behind Bernal and dropped to fifth overall.
Bernal (ING) wins the stage 🏁
It's a tough day for @SimonYatess who comes in 2'37" down, it's time to regroup with plenty of racing still to come! 💪
®️ESULT: 11th pic.twitter.com/oJu1K3KFju
— Team BikeExchange (@GreenEDGEteam) May 24, 2021
EF Education-Nippo appeared to be the most disappointed to see the Pordoi and the Fedaia scratched off Monday’s profile with Carthy relishing the difficult weather and plentiful climbing. The team tried to make the most of the redesigned course by driving a hard pace, which appeared to take its toll on plenty of riders.
Carthy couldn’t match the pace of Bernal for very long on the Giau but he still put in a solid ride to climb two places in the overall standings. He still has Aleksandr Vlasov looming behind him in the overall standings, but the Russian rider had another difficult day in the mountains thanks to a mechanical problem.