Egan Bernal is on the verge of winning the Giro d’Italia as Ineos Grenadiers played a blinder on Stage 20.
The Colombian’s closest challenger Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) rode away from Romain Bardet (Team DSM) on the final Cat. 1 climb to claim a popular win on home turf. But Bernal is unlikely to be too concerned, having finished just 24 seconds back to preserve his sizable lead of 1'59" ahead of Sunday’s time trial into Milan.
First Jonathan Castroviejo and then Dani Martinez guided the maglia rosa through the five-star mountain stage as Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) – the man tipped to light up the penultimate stage – cracked in the final few kilometres.
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The day began with a furious fight to get in a break, but the peloton controlled all these attempts until the first intermediate sprint – largely this was down to Bora-Hansgrohe trying to protect Peter Sagan’s ciclamino jersey.
A small group of nine riders finally went clear after the sprint, but was never really allowed the sort of leeway that might have delivered a stage win. The riders in that first move were Dries De Bondt, Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix), Simon Pellaud (Androni-Sidermec), Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Felix Grossschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Vincenzo Albanese (EOLO-Kometa), Taco Van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) and Nico Denz (Team DSM).
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It was an attacking move from Team DSM on the upper slopes of the Passo San Bernardino that finally spelled the end for the escapees. The hot pace set by DSM on the way up San Bernardino was matched by their impressive, aggressive descending, which allowed them to open up a gap back to Bernal.
They were joined by Caruso and his teammate Pello Bilbao, forming a strong fighting force that maintained their advantage all the way to the final climb, the Alpe Motta. When Bilbao pulled off exhausted, Caruso picked things up for himself and climbed the whole of Alpe Motta on the front himself. Bardet did not give the Italian a single turn on their way up the final ascent, and yet was still dropped with a handful of kilometres to go. Caruso, propelled on by the frenzied cheers of the tifosi, was strong enough to maintain a gap of 20 seconds, despite the valiant chasing effort of Dani Martinez. Martinez was third across the line at the summit.

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Speaking post-stage, Bernal said: "We knew how to manage the race again today. My teammates did a great job and Castroveijo managed things perfectly and did a great job. I have to thank them."
“I was scared of losing. I’m full of different emotions. I had the legs and the team, but there was Caruso up front who was a GC rival. When he got 30 or 40 second, even if I felt good, I was worried I could suffer. It was easy to lose 1:30 and then have to fight in the final TT.”
Elsewhere, Peter Sagan secured the victory in the ciclamino points jersey, something of a formality after an imperious points performance from the Slovakian.
Geoffrey Bouchard could not quite make it into the break, but enough of the day’s king of the mountains points were hoovered up by the attackers to preserve his position at the top of that classification.

Martinez 'handed the Giro on a plate to Bernal'

Stage 20 results

  • 1. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious4:27:53
  • 2. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers +24
  • 3. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers +35
  • 4. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM
  • 5. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep +41
  • 6. Simon Yates (GBr) Team BikeExchange +51
  • 7. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech +1:13
  • 8. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education-Nippo +1:29
  • 9. Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team +2:07
  • 10. Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team +2:23

General classification

  • 1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 85:41:47
  • 2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious +1:59
  • 3. Simon Yates (GB) Team BikeExchange +3:23
  • 4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech +7:07
  • 5. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM +7:48
  • 6. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers +7:56
  • 7. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education-Nippo +8:22
  • 8. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep +8:50
  • 9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma +12:39
  • 10. Dan Martin (Ire) Israel Start-Up Nation +16:48
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