Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has “sewn up the Giro d’Italia”, according to Eurosport expert Bradley Wiggins.
The Colombian’s back troubles are now a distant memory after another sensational performance in the Dolomites catapulted him to victory on Stage 16 and increased his overall lead.
Bernal is 2:24 clear of Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) in the race for the maglia rosa, with Simon Yates – the closest challenger prior to Monday’s shortened stage – leaking over two minutes as he slipped to fifth.
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Early contender Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck–QuickStep) fared even worse than Yates, shipping over 24 minutes as his faint GC hopes evaporated before the second rest day.
The expectation is the Belgian will now pull out of the race – a sad end to a Grand Tour that had seen him remind the cycling world of his undoubted talent after his horror crash at Il Lombardia.
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Wiggins said that he was surprised by how easy the win looked for Bernal, who arrived at the Giro with big question marks hanging over his fitness after an injury-blighted year.
“He looks like he had energy to spare there. He was looking around at the finish, fist pumping the Colombian spectators who were there, and it was incredibly impressive,” Wiggins said on The Breakaway.
“He just went past everyone. I actually didn’t expect that from him today in these conditions but it just shows how durable he is.
We’ve sat here for the last two weeks now discussing whether his back will hold out and the question marks there, he even raised it himself, but I would say he’s sewn up the Giro today.
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Wiggins echoed the words of Ineos supremo Dave Brailsford, however, by insisting that the job was not quite done.
“He looks the freshest of all the contenders at the finish,” he continued.
“The brutality of today is not to be underestimated.
“But anything can happen in cycling; we sat here last year with [Primoz] Roglic in the Tour de France. We sat with Simon Yates a few years ago and look what Chris Froome did.
“But it’s going to take a mighty effort for someone to dislodge him. God forbid he has anyone misfortune to crash.
It’s not a done deal, we have a week to go, but today has lived up to expectation.
Pippa York said that the fact Bernal had the composure to take off his rain jacket to reveal the maglia rosa, shows he had something left in the tank.
“In true professional style, he took his [rain jacket] off and we saw the pink jersey cross the line in first position,” she said.
“It shows Egan Bernal wasn’t at his complete limit. He still had enough resources to think how that’s going to appear. A bit of warning to the other riders.”
Would it have been any different if Stage 16 was 212km?
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