Simon Yates continued his strong third week in the Giro d'Italia on Friday, winning the penultimate mountain stage of the race atop the Alpe di Mera climb.
The Briton made his move with just under seven kilometres remaining of the stage, initially dragging several riders clear of race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), and then pressing on alone with 5.4 kilometres to go. He time-trialled from there to his fourth-ever Giro stage victory, 11 seconds ahead of a hard-chasing João Almeida (Deceninck-QuickStep) and 28 seconds in front of Bernal. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) were a further four seconds back.
Ireland’s Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) was still recovering from his stage-winning efforts of Wednesday but finished a fine sixth, 42 seconds behind Yates.
The stage prize money was donated to the families affected by last Sunday’s cable-car tragedy on the Mottarone climb. A total of 14 people died, with just one child surviving. The riders had originally been due to scale the mountain road during the stage but it was partially re-routed out of a show of respect.
Yates had started the day third overall but as his deficit to Bernal was three minutes 23 seconds, he suspected that there wouldn’t be an immediate response from Bernal’s team to his attack.
“I saw the boys from Ineos, they were happy just to ride a tempo behind,” he said. “I had a feeling that they would let me go today. I read something from Egan on Twitter about how they would be more conservative and try to control [things] rather than try to go with me.
“I had a feeling that they would let me go and as soon as I attacked, I saw that was correct. I just tried to ride full gas, and that was it. I am really happy with the stage win.”
Following Yates’s attack, Bernal was also distanced by Almeida, Caruso and Vlasov. His team-mate Dani Martínez reeled them back in and then Bernal pushed clear with Almeida in pursuit of Yates. The Briton had a maximum lead of over 30 seconds but Almeida, who dropped Bernal, closed to 11 seconds by the line. However, he is only eighth overall and also wasn’t a general classification threat.
Bernal will begin Saturday’s final mountain stage with a comfortable two minute 29 second buffer over Caruso, and has a further 20 seconds in hand over Yates. The stage is a much tougher one and Yates is certain to attack but, with only Sunday’s time-trial to follow, is running out of time to overhaul Bernal.
The latter has experienced back problems since winning the 2019 Tour de France and his more muted performances on the past two mountain stages have led some to wonder if the issue has flared up again. He insisted all is well after the stage.
“I felt actually really good. I did a really good climb. Of course Yates was the best today, and chapeau to him, but I am really happy with my condition.” Saturday will tell if he is indeed feeling good or if there is some bluffing going on.
Martin remains 10th overall and is now 13 minutes 55 seconds behind Bernal.
Giro d’Italia Italy
Stage 19 Abbiategrasso to Alpe di Mera (Valsesia): 1 Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) 166 kilometres in 4 hours 2 mins 55 secs, 2 J Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 11, 3 E Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) at 28, 4 D Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) at 32, 5 A Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) same time, 6 D Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) at 42. Other Irish: 79 N Roche (Team DSM) at 22.39
Teams: 1 Jumbo-Visma 12 hours 14 mins 21 secs, 2 Ineos Grenadiers at 18, 3 Groupama-FDJ at 7.31. Other: 5 Team DSM at 7.45 secs, 19 Israel Start-up Nation at 45.18
General classification after stage 19: 1 Egan Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) 81 hours 13 mins 37 secs, 2 D Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) at 2.29, 3 S Yates (Team BikeExchange) at 2.49, 4 A Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) at 6.11, 5 H Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) at 7.10, 6 R Bardet (Team DSM) at 7.32. Irish: 10 D Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) at 13.55, 50 N Roche (Team DSM) at 2 hours 6.37
Points classification: 1 Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 135, 2 D Cimolai (Israel Start-up Nation) 113, 3 F Gaviria Rendon (UAE Team Emirates) 110
Mountains classification: 1 Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën Team) 180, 2 E Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) 121, 3 D Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) 83