Caruso, the 33-year-old super servant who accidentally became the leader of Bahrain-Victorious after the failure of no fewer than three men above him in the pecking order, strengthened his second place in the standings with his stage win and is now 1 minute 59 on Bernal who is second. surfaced Saturday. “I think I’m the happiest man on the planet,” said Caruso after his first top-level win.
Simon Yates, third overall, was the loser of the day. He was expected the most before the two mountain stages, but he lost exactly as much time on Saturday as he took back on Friday from Bernal in the 19th stage that Yates did win. “I’m really happy!”, He told the TV viewer on Friday, but it was not the all-searing victory that the British challenger of the rosette wearer had hoped for. Yates was (again) 3 minutes and 23 seconds behind the Colombian on Saturday, with only the final time trial to Milan ahead of him on Sunday. The differences in the top of the standings are so great that position changes are not expected.
The fact that Bernal’s competitors thought they could threaten his pink jersey was due to what happened on Wednesday. That day, Bernal suffered a slump in the final miles of climbing, but limited the damage thanks to teammate Daniel Martínez – “thanks for being my guardian angel,” Bernal tweeted. Yates, who had already resigned himself to a second place in the final ranking as the highest achievable, suddenly saw opportunities and immediately took 53 seconds on the two weeks inaccessible driving around Bernal on Wednesday.
On Friday morning the peloton woke up with the question: did Bernal have a one-off bad day or can he still be caught? The answer would come in the final 9 kilometers to the top of the Alpe di Mera, a climb in the Valais Alps that starts off quietly but ends deceptively steeply. Yates was going to try it somewhere and Caruso would not, according to the experts he would be happy if he could keep up with Bernal.
Yates (28) also cycles uphill with a lot of feelings of revenge when it comes to the Giro. In that of 2018, he was just as undisputed for the first two weeks as Bernal is now and he also started the 19th stage in the pink jersey. Until, on May 25, the Colle delle Finestre crossed Yates’ path. On that partly unpaved first category climb, he had a monumental slump and four-time Tour winner Chris Froome had the best day of his career. Yates lost 39 minutes that day and tumbled from place 1 to 18. He finished the Giro won by Froome two days later in 21st place in an hour and a quarter.
That Yates can indeed handle a three-week round, he proved that same year by winning the 2018 Vuelta a España.
In the first two weeks of this Tour of Italy, Yates was out of the picture. He must have learned from ‘2018’, the followers thought: hide first to strike mercilessly in the third week. Yates vaguely denied: he’d had a few problems, but the legs were back after two weeks.
The man from Bury, a suburb of Manchester, saw on Twitter Friday before the start of the stage what competitor Bernal was planning: control, not attack. And this is how it looked in the 156 kilometers before the climb. Yates’ team, BikeExchange, took the lead, along with men from Dekeuninck-Quick-Step, who rode ahead of their ace João Almeida. The Portuguese is 8th in the ranking, but that could have been place 4 if he had not had to sacrifice himself for the fairy tale of his teammate Remco Evenepoel. After a tough, months-long rehabilitation, taking part as the first job for the victory in a big round was even asking too much of the Belgian prodigy.
Behind those two teams, Bernal’s Ineos-Grenadiers was indeed checking. So it went to the village of Scopello which, like every start and finish place of the Giro, experienced the most beautiful day of the year in support color pink. And from Scopello: up. Twelve men were in the lead on one third of the final climb. They formed, including the Dutchman Koen Bouwman who moves up a place from 13th place, exactly the top-12 in the general classification after the ride – this Giro turns out to be a true climbing feast.
We had to wait for Yates’ opening move, which came with more than 6 kilometers to go. He had to, because making up for more than 3 minutes requires climbing kilometres. But 1000 meters away, Yates had gathered just 13 seconds ahead of Bernal. And it wasn’t much more. Yates had to be satisfied with the stage followed by Almeida on 12 counts and Egan – ‘I am very happy with my form’ – Bernal, who calculated the damage to 28 seconds, again with the support of ‘my guardian angel’.
More or less the same scenario unfolded on Saturday, with Caruso in the role of Friday Yates. First, Ineos controls until the final climb. There the top of the classification is gathered, Caruso challenges, does not go further than half a minute and is happy with the stage win. And thanks again to Martínez, who finished third on Saturday and moves up to 6th in the general classification, Bernal’s calculating limits the damage. He can no longer miss the overall victory in the 2021 Giro d’Italia.