The Giro d’Italia is not over yet.
Simon Yates put in another aggressive performance to win stage 19 and claw back 28 seconds, plus some bonus seconds, on Egan Bernal in the pink jersey. The BikeExchange rider attacked on the final climb of Alpe di Mera with 6.5km to go, holding a slim advantage over his chasers until the line.
While Bernal looked a shade of his dominant self from earlier in the race, the Colombian kept Yates within touching distance to minimise his losses. It remains to be seen if Bernal is a fading force or if he is riding conservatively ahead of the time trial Sunday.
There were ultimately no changes in the overall classification, but it sets up a fascinating final mountain stage to Valle Spluga on Saturday.
Here is what the stars said after the showdown on the Alpe di Mera.
Simon Yates: Stage winner, 3rd overall
Simon Yates has tried and tried again for a stage win and his persistence finally paid off with victory on the Alpe di Mera. After a dip in form towards the end of the second week, the BikeExchange rider is mounting a resurgence in the last days of the Giro d’Italia.
While he stays in the same third place on GC as he started in the day, Yates is closing in on the top two places overall. He is now only 20 seconds behind Damiano Caruso in second and 2:49 behind Egan Bernal.
Simon Yates: “I’m really happy. The team did a fantastic job today, they worked a lot and I managed to finish it off so I’m really happy. I saw the boys from Ineos were just happy to ride at tempo behind and I had a feeling that they would let me go today. I read something from Egan on Twitter or whatever about how they would be more conservative and controlled rather than try to go with me. I had a feeling they would let me go and, as soon as I attacked, I saw that it was correct. I just tried to ride full gas and that was it.
“I tried to do my best today. It was not the most difficult of stages but it was a very difficult final climb, and tomorrow is very different. It’s a hard stage back in the high altitude so I’ll see what I can do. I’m just doing my best at the moment.”
Matt White (Sport Director): “We are very happy. It was very big team effort to control the stage and to put Simon into a position where could do his thing on the final climb.
The last couple of days we have only been looking forwards not backwards, and if we want to go any higher on the general classification, which we do, we had to try to put our rivals under pressure today. The boys did a good job by making the day hard and solid all through the stage. Simon rode a very aggressive final climb. A very well-deserved win and he put some more time into his rivals.”
The celebration says it all!
CONGRATULATIONS SIMON 👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/5lUwFyrt2q
— Team BikeExchange (@GreenEDGEteam) May 28, 2021
Egan Bernal: 3rd on the stage, race leader
After really dominating the opening two weeks of the Giro d’Italia, Egan Bernal has appeared to have gone off the boil slightly in recent days. Rather than following Simon Yates’ attack, as he did on the Monte Zoncolan, Bernal rode behind at his own pace on Alpe di Mera.
Nevertheless, the Colombian still goes into the final mountain stage with a significant advantage over his closest competitors. Even if Bernal is beginning to struggle, he has some time to play with.
“I felt actually really good. I think I did really good numbers, I did a really good climb. I’m really happy with my climb. Of course, Yates was the best today and chapeau for him but I’m really happy with my condition.
“I hope to have the same legs today. Today felt really good and tomorrow with the altitude I hope to have the same feelings as today and just to try and manage the gap I have with the two guys in the podium. Hopefully, I will be in pink after tomorrow. I’m really happy and I think I have some time to play with. I just want to have legs for the time trial, and everything should be ok if I am feeling good.”
Damiano Caruso: 4th on the stage, 2nd overall
Damiano Caruso continues his path towards a podium finish at the Giro d’Italia. Though he lost quite a bit of time on Simon Yates, he limited his loses to Egan Bernal and still gained time on many of those around him and remains in second place, for now at least.
Caruso initially tried to jump clear with Yates when the BikeExchange rider attacked with over six kilometers to the finish. However, he paid for his efforts and slipped back down the order after Yates put in another surge to go solo.
“I may have even made a mistake in trying to follow Yates, but I had a duty to try. Well done to Simon who was the strongest today on the climb. In the meantime, I continue to live one stage at a time. We make tomorrow’s uphill finish, then on Sunday we see how it is.”
— Team Bahrain Victorious (@BHRVictorious) May 28, 2021
João Almeida: 2nd on the stage, eighth overall
João Almeida is another rider that is enjoying a return to form over the final week of racing at the Giro d’Italia. He finished second for the second successive mountain stage, only losing out by 11 seconds to Simon Yates in the end.
The Portuguese did not move up any positions in the overall classification on stage 19, but made some serious inroads into the likes of Daniel Martínez, Romain Bardet and Hugh Carthy ahead of the last mountain stage. With a strong time trial in his arsenal, he could well climb several places in the standings over the final weekend.
“First of all, I want to thank the entire team, they were incredible and did a perfect job for me today. I felt good and confident, so I attacked early to see what could happen. To be up there again with the other GC guys on this hard climb was nice and showed that I have good legs at the moment. It’s a pity I missed the win and took second again, but on the other hand, I gained more time in the standings, which bodes well for the remaining stages, where we’ll see what I will be able to do.”