Damiano Caruso wins stage 20!
A virtuoso performance from the Italian veteran sees him take the stage win and about 20 seconds on Bernal on GC. Amazingly, it's his first pro win.
Bernal is next to cross the line but it was a stunning ride from Martinez that has all-but-secured the victory for his Ineos teammate in this year's Giro. It all comes down to Caruso's TT, now. Caruso is 1'59" down on the Colombian going into tomorrow's final stage.
Bernal exit rumours not true and is happy at Ineos - agent
Martinez is done
Bernal steps on the pedals and pushes on in the hunt for Caruso. The Itlaian is in the final 500m. The tifosi are going crazy.
Flamme rouge for Caruso!
This has been a stunning ride from the Italian, as behind they drop Almeida. Just two Ineos riders now chasing hard behind Caruso. They've just caught Bardet.
2km to go – Caruso leaves Bardet behind
And it looks like Simon Yates is in trouble in the GC group! The BikeEXchange rider loses the wheel in front. It's just Martinez, Bernal and Almeida now, some 21 seconds down on Caruso.
3km to go – Carthy cracks
Looks like the end of the EF Education First - NIppo leader... as soon as you lose contact, it's just impossible to recover, with this incredible pace being set by Martinez.
Just 20" now for Caruso and Bardet.
4km to go – Just six left in maglia rosa group
Martinez, Bernal, Yates, Carthy, Vlasov, Almeida.
You sense that up ahead, Bardet is just sitting on Caruso's wheel waiting for the Italian to crack, before attacking himself in pursuit of stage glory. It's a little unsporting, but canny bike racing.
5km to go – Almeida struggling
The Portuguese was excellent yesterday, but it looks like he might not quite have as much in the tank today as he just loses the wheel a bit.
Martinez continues to put everybody in the hurt.
6km to go – Martinez shoulders the burden
And this is the last rider there to help Bernal. The longer he can set the pace, the better Bernal's chances are of holding onto pink and winning this bike race.
Bilbao has just popped up front, after some heroic efforts for Caruso. And immediately the Italian is out of the saddle and kicking on. He looks like he wants to win the Giro today!
8km to go – Alpe Motta!
Here we go then, all or nothing. When will the expected attack from SImon Yates come? The Caruso-Bardet group has 35" now and Castroviejo has just exploded. He almost stopped moving entirely.
15km to go – 38 seconds for Bardet-Caruso group
They've shed Grosschartner so it's now just one domestique each, plus the big names. Alpe Motta constitutes the final eight kilometres of the stage.
20km to go – The tension builds as Alpe Motta beckons
Not much has changed in terms of the situation in that rapid last five kilometres. It's all going to play out on the slopes of the day's last mountain. Can Yates do it? I think he can, but he needs to give it everything he's got. And go early too.
We've got Vlasov back in the Bernal group. Yates is there too, as are Hugh Carthy, Tobias Foss and Joao Almeida.
25km to go – And down the other side!
After a brief foray into Switzerland, we are back on the Italian side of the imaginary line bisecting the Alps and plummeting downwards. Our leaders have half a minute of advantage now, as Pello Bilbao continues to do a fantastic job of working for his leader, Damiano Caruso.
The Ineos-led peloton follows them, a little bit further up the hill, and somewhere in between is Aleksandr Vlasov, who has tried to put some distance between himself and the rest of the GC men. He'd be a wonderful addition to this fighting force if he catches up.
30km to go – Up the Splugenpass
We're on one of, if not the best-named mountains in this year's Giro and the race has exploded into chaotic life. Vervaeke has dropped out of the leading group, so it's now two Bahrain guys including overall second place, Damiano Caruso, plus two DSM riders and Bora's Felix Grosschartner. The gap is 46 seconds at the moment back to the peloton.
The rain is also falling making the surface slick, which might play a part in the descent on the other side.
Egan Bernal has Castroviejo and Dani Martinez left now. Castroviejo is doing a good job of pegging the escapees where they are.
Gap for Caruso & co is growing
After a whopping turn from Louis Vervaeke, Pello Bilbao comes to the front to ride for this leading group. They are building their advantage all the time now, with 38 seconds the latest count.
Caruso began the day 2'29" down on the maglia rosa. Ineos has Castroviejo, Martinez and Narvaez with Bernal.
35km to go – Vervaeke and Grosschartner join up with leaders
So now we have six in the lead. Vervaeke, Grosschartner, Storer, Bardet, Bilbao and Caruso. Caruso, of course, is second on GC.
40km to go – Quintet forms
Those two small attacks, the Bahrain riders and the DSM guys, have come together as a quintet. This is suddenly very dangerous for the maglia rosa! There's a brief bit of 'valley road', neither fast descent nor steep climb, before they hit the real slopes of the Splugenpass proper. Ineos are chasing hard, but they've lost Gianni Moscon just now.
50km to go – Mountain mayhem!
A trio of DSM riders has gone clear of the peloton now on the descent here before our next climb. Clearly Bardet is feeling amazing and fancies going for this today. They're followed by a duo of Bahrain riders. The peloton meanwhile is going to pieces behind them, super strung-out and being led by Ineos.
Bardet's group are just 20 seconds behind the five at the head of the race.
60km to go – DSM obliterate the gap
This is top racing from Bardet and co. They lose Nicholas Roche after a monstrous turn, but they're forging on still and the time gap to the race leaders is just a minute now. The break might just making it to the summit of San Bernardino before they rampaging peloton catches them!
65km to go – Team DSM came to party
This is fun! The team of Romain Bardet have hit the front and now the peloton is really sucking diesel They're rattling along as they near the summit of San Bernardino. Why, though? To cause chaos? To improve Bardet's sixth placed on GC. Only time will tell. The injection of pace spells the end of Michael Hepburn who is swiftly dropped after doing a lot of chasing for his leader, Simon Yates.
Ganna a goner
The hefty Italian might love dogs, but the Saint Bernard pass doesn't love him. He's been dropped from the peloton under the pace set by BikeExchange. Egan Bernal still has plenty of lieutenants around him, however.
70 km to go – Up, up, and up we go!
So, the three became two and then their number swelled to four. Vervaeke and Grosschartner dropped Pellaud, but were joined later by Albanese and Visconti. They're pushing on together now as a quartet. Meanwhile, it's BikeExchange chasing with Juul-Jensen on the front of the bunch. And despite having the day off, Mr Lowe just can't say no to the Giro action.
Dog content! 🐶
I'm going to need you to stop what you're doing immediately and give these pictures of Filippo Ganna and his dog your full attention.
75km to go – Vervaeke leads a sortie
As the climbing begins in earnest, Louis Vervaeke of Alpecin is not happy about the gap coming down and he attacks on from the breakaway. Pellaud and Grosschartner follow him – and that's a decent power trio, pushing on.
80km to go – Tiny gap.
Poor fellas in the break are not getting anything from the peloton now. Their gap is 3'41" as we speak, not even close to being enough to even give them some hope of a stage win. One wonders if they might even knock it on the head and spin the roulette wheel once again.
Almeida says the podium is out of his reach
Which is a bit of a shame if you ask me. What might've been if that first week, where he was pressed into service as domestique for Remco Evenepoel, had gone a little differently.?
Almeida: ‘The podium is not reachable’
90km to go – Saint Bernards!
The Passo San Bernardino looms ahead now. This absolutely monstrous climb goes on for 23 kilometres, and heralds the beginning of the brutal second half of this 160-kilometre parcours. The average gradient is 6.3% but that does also include a couple of kilometres of flat in the middle, so in reality most of the climbing will be more like 7 or 8%. Brutal stuff!
100km to go – BikeExchange come to the front
Just as they did yesterday, Team BikeExchange have come to the front of the peloton. They're getting help from Joao Almeida's Deceuninck QuickStep right now, and their intent is to keep the break within striking distance, so that when Simon Yates decides to attack later he'll have plenty of carrots to chase!
As a reminder, Yates managed to take 35 seconds yesterday when he attacked Bernal. He needs another 2'49" to overhaul the Colombian in the lead of this race.
110km to go – The break
Here they are then, the final nine masochists of the 2021 Giro! Tesfatsion didn't make it across. The gap has gone right out now, to 5'13".
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).
120km to go – Go Natu!
Natnael Tesfatsion has launched a bridging move across to the breakaway to join his teammate Simon Pellaud. This could be a great stage for the Eritrean who excels at altitude – and his attempt to get in the break makes for a good excuse to share this profile on the superbly talented young East African.
The breakaway's lead is now 1'27" over the peloton. Not really the kind of gap we're used to seeing on a day like this, with Deceuninck QuickStep seeming to want to keep it on a short leash.
130km to go – Looks like we could have it now...
Finally! A selection of riders gets away. Looks to be 11 riders, including that man Dries De Bondt, Simon Pellaud, Emmanuel Buchmann and Victor Albanese. No threats on GC here, but Buchmann is a fabulous climber and could be an early favourite for a stage win – that all depends on what sort of gap the escape is allowed by the teams still looking for time in the GC. Simon Yates bagged 10 seconds of time bonus yesterday by winning the stage overall and would surely like to do so again.
145km to go – Sprint!
No break has formed yet, but not for lack of trying. The peloton simply won't let them off the leash – and that's because of the intermediate sprint we've just seen contested. It's won by a Bardiani rider who is no major threat on the ciclamino jersey, with Gaviria and Cimolai kinda in the mix in the top six. They won't have scored nearly enough to overtake Peter Sagan, which should mean the jersey stays on the shoulders of the Slovakian for the remainder of the race. Congratulations, Peter, you've done it again!
We might see a proper break form quite soon now.
156km to go – And we're off!
The fight for the breakaway is as furious and frenetic as it has been all month. Fernando Gaviria of UAE Team Emirates is a somewhat surprising early attacker, perhaps hoping to improve his ciclamino points tally by way of the intermediate sprints today. I'm not sure Gaviria can outstrip Peter Sagan at the very top, but maybe he fancies leapfrogging Davide Cimolai into second?
Today, of course, is the last day for accruing ciclamino and blue jersey points with a TT tomorrow.
About last night...
It was a smasher of a stage yesterday and well worth watching the highlights, whether you caught them first time round or not. Yates, for me, is looking every bit the bullish, boisterous force we saw in 2018.
Stage 19 highlights: Yates closes on Bernal to boost pink jersey hopes
About five minutes to the real rollout of the stage now. Dries De Bondt looks very interested in the move.
What is UP?!
Me, Tom Owen, subbing in for the final weekend of this enthralling Giro after Le Patron, Felix Lowe, ran out of gas in the difficult third week. Some of these old guys just don't have it in the legs, eh?
Racers are due to start rolling at 11:30 today.
How Yates can deny Bernal and win the Giro d’Italia
Felix Lowe, who backed Simon Yates to unseat Egan Bernal earlier in the race, has mapped out what needs to happen for the maglia rosa to change hands on the final weekend. Here's a snippet from his article on Friday night, but feel free to bask in the full thing here.
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Felix Lowe (aka Blazin' Saddles): If Bernal is suffering with back pain – as the rumours have been saying – then he must be made to work hard early. None of the climbs remaining are especially difficult – but if the Colombian comes onto the Passo di Spluga with only Martinez, then the pressure will be very much on ahead of the final descent to the foot of the Alpe Motta. Then, as they say, anything can happen.
It’s also worth remembering that the race does not finish on Saturday. Sunday’s 30km time trial into Milan will be no formality for whoever is in pink should the gaps be under a minute. After all, riding flat out in the time trial position after three weeks of racing with a bad back would not even be Bradley Wiggins’ cup of tea.
Yates trails Bernal by 2’49” ahead of Saturday’s final road stage. He needs to oversee an alliance between BikeExchange and QuickStep on the first climb – and once Bernal is isolated, he must press on with Almeida (who could yet ride into the top five and win that elusive stage) on the final two climbs.
Baring a meltdown of mammoth proportions from the Colombian race leader, Yates will not be able to take the maglia rosa in Stage 20. But should he – or Caruso, for that matter – move to within a minute of Bernal ahead of the final time trial into Milan, then fans could be treated to a second Giro finale in six months where it all comes down to the final pedal strokes.
How the GC stands with two stages to go...
- 1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 77:10:18
- 2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious +2:29
- 3. Simon Yates (GB) Team BikeExchange +2:49
- 4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech +6:11
- 5. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education-Nippo +7:10
- 6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM +7:32
- 7. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers +7:42
- 8. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep +8:26
- 9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma +10:19
- 10. Dan Martin (Ire) Israel Start-Up Nation +13:55
'Yates is on a roll' – Wiggins
‘Can't leave it late' - Can Yates unseat Bernal on five-star mountain Stage 20?
Bradley Wiggins believes that Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) is “on a roll” as he seeks to banish memories of the 2018 Giro d’Italia.
Yates kept his faint chances of wrestling the maglia rosa off Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) alive on Stage 19 after attacking on the final climb to claim victory and slice Bernal’s overall lead.
However his task still remains unenviable. He must claw back 2’49” on Bernal in the final two stages.
“We’ve waited the best part of three weeks for it and it’s shades of the Simon we’ve seen quite often at a Giro before, three years ago before it all went wrong with Chris Froome,” Wiggins said on The Breakaway.
“He’s timed his form really well. But Bernal, he’s been exceptional this whole race. Does it give us hope tomorrow he can do it? It gives us a mouth-watering final tomorrow.
“Simon Yates has backed up what he did the other day. I think his consistency means there’s little chance of him cracking tomorrow, he now seems to be on a roll.”
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