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The Giro d’Italia took on a whole new complexion on the gravel slopes on Sunday.
Egan Bernal tilted the race on its head with a blistering attack on the unpaved summit finish of the race’s ninth stage, scoring his first-ever grand tour stage win and moving him into a 15-second GC lead over closest rival Remco Evenepoel.
After a breakout three days in the pink jersey, Attila Valter was distanced under the pace of Bernal’s Ineos Grenadiers wrecking crew, and the young Hungarian now sits fifth overall.
Race report: Bernal punches into pink on Giro d’Italia stage 9
With a sprint stage to come Monday and a rest day Tuesday, the classification standings may stay as they are through to a pivotal dirt road stage on Wednesday.
So, what are the stars saying after the Giro’s GC shuffle on Sunday? And what’s the latest on Matej Mohorič after he suffered a nasty crash early in the stage?
Egan Bernal: Stage winner, GC leader
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has shown hints of his former self through the start of the Giro, and his unmatchable race-winning acceleration Sunday suggested that the back problems that torpedoed much of his 2020 season may be behind him.
The 24-year-old now holds the pink jersey, the first time that he has taken the lead at a grand tour since he won the Tour de France in 2019.
“I can’t believe this is happening. I just won my first stage in a grand tour. I made a lot of sacrifices to be in this position after the Tour last year … I’m really happy.
“I was thinking of doing really well today, but I wasn’t sure if I’d go for the stage. But my teammates had a lot of confidence in me. I wasn’t sure, but they told me I could do it. This victory is more for them because they really believed in me.”
Deceuninck-Quick-Step on Remco Evenepoel: 4th on the stage, 2nd on GC
Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) continues to surpass expectations in his debut grand tour. The 21-year-old wasn’t able to match Bernal’s winning kick Sunday, but he limited his losses to cross the line in fourth, just 10 seconds back on the Colombian and ahead of the majority of the GC contenders.
Evenepoel retains his second-place on the GC, but now has the task of chasing back 15 seconds on new pink jersey Egan Bernal. Sport director Klaas Lodewyck told Sporza that not having the burden of race lead this early on was an advantage.
“In retrospect, this is a good thing for the team. Remco limits the damage and remains second in the standings behind a very strong Egan Bernal. All in all, it was a good day for us. We now have to look at it day by day. We are second for now, I think that is very good. Now we have to recover from this tough stage.
“This is certainly not a bad situation for us, it is now up to Ineos to lead. Let Remco continue to grow in peace in this Giro and then we’ll see where we end up. ”
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) May 16, 2021
Attila Valter: 25th on the stage, 5th on GC
Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) lost his pink jersey after three days leading the race.
The Hungarian was dangling toward the back of the GC group through the final climb of the stage as Ineos Grenadiers cranked the pace for Bernal. The 22-year-old finally lost the wheels in the final kilometer but held on for 25th on the stage, just 49 seconds behind Bernal.
Valter is now fifth overall, and though the final podium may be unlikely, the Giro’s newest hero may still be in with a chance of making a serious impression in the final standings.
“It was brutal for me and I think for a lot of other riders. I gave my best on the gravel road but it was not enough to defend the jersey, but I’m of course happy with three incredible days. Even if I had a super good performance today and was still on the podium, I would still lose the jersey to an incredible Egan Bernal.
“It’s no shame to lose the jersey after such a hard stage, and I’m still fifth on GC which I would never have expected before the Giro. I’m still motivated to do a really good Giro. I’m glad to have some time now to reflect on these three beautiful days.”
Jusqu'au bout. pic.twitter.com/uA4glttsw5
— Équipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ (@GroupamaFDJ) May 16, 2021
Aleksandr Vlasov: 3rd on the stage, 3rd on GC
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) has been quietly impressive through the Giro’s opening week. The 25-year-old has yet to lose a wheel or lose his nerve in his third grand tour start, racing to 11th overall in the opening time trial and steadily moving up the classification since.
Vlasov was the first to move in the summit finish, and though the Russian was distanced by Egan Bernal’s winning acceleration, he paced himself to the line to finish third on the stage.
“It was a great experience for me on this kind of final. It was a very tough summit especially because of the gravel section. I tried to attack in the final and I think it was a good move, but it was a bit difficult for me to hold the bike stable on this surface. My legs worked really well and I felt good, but the gravel was a hard challenge anyway.
“I am happy with my performance and I did all I could on this type of finish. So, I am happy so far and let’s see how it will be tomorrow and after the first rest day.”
What an epic finale on stage 9! We saw a brilliant ride from @ale_vlasov to take third on the stage and move up to third on GC behind stage winner and new race leader Bernal 👏#Giro
📷 @ChrisAuldPhoto pic.twitter.com/aeJVZRjPi5
— Astana Qazaqstan Team (@AstanaQazTeam) May 16, 2021
Bahrain-Victorious team doctor on Matej Mohorič after nasty crash
Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious) crashed hard in the opening hours of the stage. The Slovenian was forcing the pace through a long descent when riding in the early break when he lost control of his bike, hit a wall with his front wheel and then cartwheeled onto his head.
Although Mohorič was seen standing immediately after the crash – which left his bike in two pieces – he was taken away in an ambulance for checks. Bahrain-Victorious team doctor Daniele Zaccaria later spoke to Italian broadcaster RAI:
“Matej was brought to the nearest hospital to undergo further assessment. We’re certainly talking about a concussion, but I can reassure you by saying that he was always conscious.
“He spoke with the mechanic and sports directors after the crash. They told me he asked them to call his girlfriend, so he could remember her phone number, which made me a bit calmer about the situation. The impact was significant, so he will undergo X-rays too to make sure he hasn’t fractured any bones.”
He has been taken to the hospital by ambulance for radiological diagnostics.
He is being kept under observation according to UCI concussion protocol.
— Team Bahrain Victorious (@BHRVictorious) May 16, 2021