Dan Martin wins Stage 17 of Giro d'Italia as Egan Bernal shows signs of weakness after Simon Yates attack
The fight for pink was reinvigorated in Stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia on the vicious climb of Sega di Ala after race leader Egan Bernal cracked on a day Dan Martin completed his grand slam of Grand Tour stage wins. Irishman Martin was the only rider from a 19-man break to survive, taking a historic win ahead of Portugal’s Joao Almeida and Britain’s Simon Yates.
‘A little smile on his face!’ – Yates closes on Bernal in GC as Martin wins Stage 17
A day of drama on the Giro d’Italia saw Colombia’s Egan Bernal show his first signs of weakness in the pink jersey, losing 57 seconds to Simon Yates; Ireland’s Dan Martin complete a Grand Tour clean sweep; British duo Yates and Hugh Carthy trade places once again in the top five; and Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel crash over the guardrail in an incident which would have brought back memories of his terrible fall in last year’s Il Lombardia.
If Bernal cracking on the steep 17 per cent section of the Sega di Ala climb was the big story of the day, Martin’s gutsy stage win as all this chaos played out in his wake will go down as one of the standout moments of the 104th edition of the Giro.
The Israel Start-Up Nation rider proved the strongest of a 19-man breakaway, arriving at the foot of the final climb in a whittled-down group of six riders before going solo with 10km remaining while the GC fireworks were set off behind.
Twice a stage winner on both the Tour de France (2013 and 2018) and Vuelta a Espana (2011 and 2020), Martin held on to win the 193km stage from Canazei by 13 seconds on Portugal’s Joao Almeida (Deceuninck Quick-Step) and 30 seconds over Yates of Team BikeExchange.
Bernal rode with Ineos Grenadiers teammate Dani Martinez alongside both Yates and Almeida until the final three kilometres when a series of attacks by his two rivals eventually wore him down. Once the elastic snapped, the sight of the pink jersey becoming toast inspired Yates and Almeida to provide the butter and jam.
'The Giro d’Italia is alive and kicking!' - Watch the moment Bernal cracks
As they rode clear in pursuit of Martin, Bernal pedalled squares while compatriot Martinez eased up to encourage and pace his leader as a chase group including Italy’s Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) returned to the fold. Caruso, second in the general classification, dropped Bernal on the home straight to finish alongside compatriot Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) 1’20” down on the winner, with the race leader crossing the line three seconds back – 57 seconds down on Yates.
Bernal remains very much the man to beat – it will take a lot more than a slight wobble to knock him off his pink pedestal – but his advantage over Caruso is down to 2’21” while Yates moves back into to third place at 3’32” after he repaid his BikeExchange teammates for their hard work in teeing up his attack.
Some perspective was provided, however, by the sight of Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) both suffering even more that the Colombian on the double-digit gradients of the final climb to slip more than six minutes in arrears on GC.
The upshot being that even on a day where Bernal showed the kind of suffering that tarnished his 2020 Tour de France, he still managed to extend his advantage over all but two of his GC rivals.
“I’m happy because I don’t lose too much time on Yates and with Caruso, who is my nearest challenger, it was just a few metres,” Bernal, 24, said after the stage.
I just have to stick with them until Milan. If I win the Giro by one second or two minutes, it doesn’t matter to me.
Russia’s Vlasov stays in fourth while Briton Carthy dropped two places to fifth, with Romain Bardet (Team DSM) up to sixth place and Martinez, by virtue of his excellent chaperoning duties for Bernal, rising to seventh in the standings.
One of the big losers of the day was Italy’s Giulio Ciccone of Trek-Segafredo who needed two bike changes either side of a crash on the descent of the penultimate climb. The crash also took down his teammate Vincenzo Nibali and a number of other riders – including the Belgian tyro Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck Quick-Step).
Dropped at the start of the Cat.1 Passo di San Valentino, Evenepoel had found a second wind to rejoin the maglia rosa group just ahead of the summit. But the 21-year-old was perhaps distracted by the pile-up in front of him, and crashed over the guardrail to avoid the melee. After being attended by doctors, Evenepoel got back on his bike and completed the stage in the gruppetto over 35 minutes down.
‘Oh no’ – Evenepoel flung onto barriers in big crash, Ciccone also down
The seeds of Martin’s victory were sown when the battling Irishman fought tooth and nail to be part of a large breakaway which eventually formed ahead of the first of three categorised climbs after a fast opening hour of racing through the Val di Fassa, with its fields of buttercups resplendent in the sunshine entirely absent from the race on Monday’s washout.
Also in the strong move was local rider Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers), the blue jersey Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2R-Citroen), Belgian champion Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) and Quick-Step duo James Knox and Pieter Serry.
De Bondt denied Bouchard the KOM points going over the Cat.3 ascent of Sveseri before winning the intermediate sprint at Trento – at which point Yates’s BikeExchange team came to the front of the chasing pack with the gap above five minutes.
After a long schlep past the vineyards of the Trento valley, the 19 leaders still held a sizeable gap of four minutes going onto the Passo di San Valentino, where Martin soon went clear with Moscon and Antonio Pedrero (Movistar). They were caught by the battling Bouchard near the summit, with the Frenchman taking maximum points over the top to strengthen his grip on the blue jersey (by the end of the day, Bouchard held a 71-point gap over his nearest rival, Bernal).
Hefty pacing by Mikel Nieve of Team BikeExchange on his 37th birthday reduced the advantage of the break while whittling down the pack, with Evenepoel one of the big-name riders quickly tailed off.
‘Hopefully forecast stays the same’ – Yates praying for sun to overhaul Bernal
A Trek-Segafredo trio of Ciccone, Nibali and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier came to the front ahead of the descent but their plans to pile on the pressure took a blow when Ciccone – sixth on the overnight standings – picked up a puncture. All three were fighting back on when they went down in that crash on a sweeping bend, which Evenepoel witnessed before going over the guardrail.
Ciccone fought back but needed another bike change in the valley before suffering for his efforts on the final climb, dropped off the group of favourites around the same time as the white jersey of Vlasov started to go backwards.
Serry and Knox had dropped back from the break to pace the pack and set up teammate Almeida for an attempt on the stage – and the Portuguese came close to repaying them for their efforts after Martin had ridden clear of Moscon, Pedrero, Bouchard and the Italian duo Simone Ravanelli (Androni Giacattoli) and Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF).
Almeida, fourth in last year’s Giro after a two-week stint in pink, put in the first attack from the group of favourites shortly after Carthy and Bardet went off the back, the 22-year-old’s dig almost instantly matched by Yates.
Colombian duo Bernal and Martinez followed until Yates countered another move by Almeida with a decisive unseated surge – resulting in the unlikely sight of Bernal hitting the wall. But with Yates and Almeida riding clear in their ultimately failed pursuit of Martin, Bernal limited his loses and stuck to the wheel of the returning Caruso almost all the way to the finish.
If a Bernal wobble was exactly what this Giro d’Italia needed, the Colombian will sleep soundly knowing that even on an off-day he largely consolidated his grip on the maglia rosa.
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