Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) admits he "can’t believe what is happening" after landing a memorable attack on the gravel to move into the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia.
The Colombian lit up the GC battle by exploding up an off-road ski slope to take the overall lead by 15 seconds. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck–QuickStep) is second after overnight leader Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) cracked.
Bernal arrived at the Giro with huge question marks hanging over his fitness, having been troubled by a persistent back injury last season.
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The 24-year-old abandoned the 2020 Tour de France as defending champion and admitted he was unsure about his back heading into the Giro, but he appears to be in rude health after winning his first stage at a Grand Tour.
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“Even I can’t believe what is happening,” said an emotional Bernal.
“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.”
With two weeks of the Giro remaining, Bernal looks the favourite to add a second Grand Tour to his palmarès.
However, just 55 seconds separate the top nine, with the likes of Evenepoel, Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana–Premier Tech) and Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) all within shooting distance of the Ineos star.
“I was really thinking to do well today. But I was not sure [whether] to go for the stage,” added Bernal.
“My teammates had a lot of confidence in me, I was not sure, but they told me ‘you can do it, we take the responsibility for you.’
This victory is more for them because they really believed in me.
Stage 10 of the Giro travels from l'Aquila and Foligno and is unlikely to see much GC action, with the first rest day following on Tuesday.
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