Have you caught your breath yet?
Stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia was billed as a “mini Strade Bianche,” and it was even more spectacular than we could have hoped for.
Race report: Bernal takes control on the gravel roads
Mauro Schmid won from a breakaway as the GC group erupted behind. Ineos Grenadiers lit up the race through the first gravel sector and Dan Martin was done for. Remco Evenepoel went pop with 20km to go. Giulio Ciccone and Marc Soler were next to suffer.
Meanwhile, Egan Bernal and Emanuel Buchmann grabbed bucketloads of time, and Ineos Grenadiers has taken crushing control of the race.
There was so much going on it was hard to take it all in.
So what were those on the inside saying about the scorcher on the Strade?
Egan Bernal: 11th on stage, GC leader
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) blasted out of the GC pack in the final kilometers with a blistering burst that set him up for 11th on the stage, gaining time on all his major rivals in the process.
Filippo Ganna detonated the race over the first gravel sector and Ineos Grenadiers didn’t let off from there on, with Gianni Moscon and Jhonatan Narváez leading Bernal through the final sectors of sterrato.
Bernal’s final kick put a cap on a stellar day for the team, leaving the Colombian with a tight grip on pink, 45 seconds over second-place Aleksandr Vlasov.
Egan Bernal: “Today was really hard. With the sterrato we expected some big gaps, and there were a lot of GC riders losing time. I’m happy to stay in front and we need to stay focussed in the coming days.”
Dave Brailsford, Ineos Grenadiers team principal: “Egan is really showing why everyone got so excited about him a few years ago. After a difficult time last year, he’s really coming back. When you’ve got that much class as a rider, you might have ups and downs but you never lose it. He’s shown once again just how good he is.
“His performance was built on the team … We’ve changed our philosophy from before. Rather than racing defensively, we’re trying to ride off the front. We’ve got the guys to do it, they’re up for it and they enjoy it. They enjoy bike racing and when you give them a bit of freedom and opportunity they’ve got this joy of racing, that’s what they want to do … they’re loving it.
“We’re being more aggressive, we’re racing off the front and it’s enjoyable. We’re having fun. We like racing, and we’re racing a lot more openly. And we’re seeing the benefits.”
Remco Evenepoel: 26th on stage, 7th on GC
Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) went Evene-pop in the final 20km. After starting the day second overall, cameras caught Evenepoel off the back on the penultimate gravel sector, left in splendid isolation as João Almeida rode on in the GC group ahead.
Evenepoel tore out his radio earpiece in anger before Almeida eventually came back to lend him a wheel – but by that point, the damage was already done. The pair’s desperate chase after the bunch proved futile, and they finished over two minutes back on Bernal.
After starting the stage just 14 seconds behind Bernal, Evenepoel is now seventh overall, 2:22 back.
The final time trial plays in his favor, but there may be some awkward conversation over dinner tonight as Evenepoel and Almeida pick over the pieces of a disaster on the dirt roads.
— Deceuninck-QuickStep (@deceuninck_qst) May 19, 2021
Klaas Lodewyck, team sport director: “On the first gravel strip, Remco lost touch with the first group, but we were able to rectify that quickly with the team. After that, it seemed to go well, up to the third sector. There he indicated that things were going a little too fast, after which we made João wait. I don’t want to speak of an ‘off-day,’ because I think Remco was good. But those gravel sectors are not his thing. In the end, he has not done that badly.”
“It’s two minutes you’d rather not lose. Tonight we have to discuss what the plan is for the coming stages. We had hoped to finish closer and possibly take pink. We knew fairly quickly that the escapees would stay ahead, but you also saw in the peloton that it would be a hellish fight on those first gravel strips to sit in the front rows.”
Lodewyck on Evenepoel throwing out his earpiece:
“Trying to encourage a rider who sits à bloc… At a certain point he has had enough of that too, I think. It is also his first experience in a grand tour, where you have to race day-in-and-day-out on the cutting edge. That is something he must learn in the future.”
“Almeida did help on the first strips and in the end, he waited. He has completely emptied himself to limit the loss of time. Now we have to recover from this ride and then look further ahead.”
Mauro Schmid: Stage-winner
Mauro Schmid (Qhubeka-Assos) chose a good day to win a bike race.
The Swiss rookie opened his pro account Wednesday after emerging as the strongest from an 11-rider escape, outsprinting Alessandro Covi to put his name to the top of one of the most memorable stages in seasons. After racing just 24 days in the WorldTour, 21-year-old Schmid has taken his team’s biggest win of the season.
And he wasn’t even planning to go to the Giro.
Some start to a pro career.
“I can’t believe it … I only came into the Giro team about two weeks before it started. My preparation was quite good, but I was never at the beginning of the season thinking about doing a grand tour.”
“To be honest, in the last 10 days I suffered so much that I nearly follow sometimes. Today I knew I had to go into the break because I love Strade Bianche, and love gravel roads. When I was in the break I could feel I had great legs. I recovered very well during the rest day.”
“I knew Covi was really strong. He nearly dropped me on the climb, but I knew I had to stay in his wheel. I tried to not pull anymore and wait for the sprint and try my best. When I saw the finish, I didn’t feel my legs anymore and just went for the line.”
Simon Yates: 15th on stage, 5th on GC
Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) has flown beneath the radar so far this Giro, and started Wednesday’s stage in danger of losing contact in the battle for pink, dangling off the pace at 9th on GC.
The Brit remained quiet on the sterrato Wednesday, but it paid off big-time. The Brit marked the moves and made all the selections, neither showing his cards nor burning any matches. Although he lost 21 seconds to Bernal, Yates has jumped up to fifth overall, holding his own while the likes of Remco Evenepoel, Giulio Ciccone, and Dan Martin all crumbled.
Now 1:22 back on the pink jersey, Yates will be looking to the high mountains with a glimmer of hope in his eye.
“Looking at the situation with the GC, it was a good day. I’ve moved up to fifth, so onwards and upwards.”
“It wasn’t a day I was looking forward to and I think I did a good ride, I had good legs. Now I’m looking forward to the days to come.”
“Gravel’s not my favorite terrain, I don’t have much experience riding off-road other than at Strade earlier in the year which I think was very valuable in getting experience. It helped me a lot today, as well as doing the recon before the race. I’m just happy to get through it.”