Giro d'Italia: Bernal and Yates primed for maglia rosa battle amid fierce competition

By Sports Desk May 07, 2021

The Giro d'Italia returns to its usual spot on the calendar after its coronavirus-delayed scheduling last year and it promises to be another classic.

It was not until October that last season's event took place, with Ineos Grenadiers rider Tao Geoghegan Hart taking the honours for his first Grand Tour triumph.

However, the Briton's primary target in 2021 is the Tour de France so he will not be wearing the maglia rosa in Milan at the end of the month.

Here is a rundown of everything you need to know about this year's Giro.

 

THE ROUTE

It is 3,479 kilometres of hard graft from the start in Torino on May 8 to the finish line in Milan 22 days later.

That spans 21 stages, with two rest days, beginning and ending with individual time trials.

In between are some punishing days in the saddle, including seven major mountain stages and brief trips into Slovenia and Switzerland along the way.

All eyes will be on what could be a pivotal day in the mountains on stage 16, which takes in climbs up Passo Fedaia and the Passo Giau in the Dolomites.

The literal high point of the race – though perhaps not at all figuratively for the competitors – will also come on that day atop the Passo Pordoi, at 2,239m above sea level.

THE CONTENDERS

There is little to split Simon Yates and Giro debutant Egan Bernal in the bookies' odds, with stiff competition from elsewhere in the pack.

Bernal is from the rich stock of Ineos Grenadiers' stable and will have the backing of a strong team, as will Team BikeExchange's Yates.

Both have Grand Tour successes under their belts, Bernal winning the 2019 Tour, while Yates prevailed at the 2018 Vuelta a Espana.

Given that Geoghegan Hart was not giving any billing ahead of last year's race, it would be remiss to exclude supposed 'outsiders' from the reckoning.

On that front, Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Bernal's team-mate Pavel Sivakov would be two to look out for, while 2020 runner-up Jai Hindley (DSM) cannot be discounted.

 

PAST WINNERS

2020: Tao Geoghegan Hart 

2019: Richard Carapaz

2018: Chris Froome

2017: Tom Dumoulin 

2016: Vincenzo Nibali

EXPERT INSIGHT

Tour winner and five-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins shed some light on the supposed fragility of Bernal, suggesting the dynamic with Sivakov could prove problematic.

Wiggins favours Yates instead and suggested he could be joined on the podium by fellow Briton Hugh Carthy.

"The air of invincibility around Bernal has now gone after his failure at the Tour last year due to injury," Wiggins told Cyclingnews.

"There are question marks over his form and if he's through the period of being able to get through three weeks of racing without problems for his back.

"But for me this is Simon Yates' moment. He's won the Vuelta and it's been three years since he won that race and he dominated the Giro until Chris Froome did what he did.

"We could have two British riders [Yates and Carthy] on the podium and I think that it's going to be great race, I really do."

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  • Giro d'Italia: Hirt withstands the pain as Hindley closes in on Carapaz Giro d'Italia: Hirt withstands the pain as Hindley closes in on Carapaz

    Richard Carapaz's overall lead at the Giro d'Italia was cut to just three seconds as Jai Hindley finished third in a gruelling stage 16 won by Jan Hirt.

    The Giro returned in some style on Tuesday following Monday's rest day, with a 202km route from Salo to Aprica that included three category one climbs and over 5,000 metres of climbing in total.

    Hirt came out in front, sealing the first grand tour stage win of his career.

    The Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert rider was part of the breakaway and subsequently pushed up the final climb on the Valico di Santa Cristina before managing a difficult descent. 

    He finished seven seconds clear of Thymen Arensman, with Hindley sprinting ahead of Carapaz to put pressure on the rider wearing the maglia rosa and claim the four-second bonus for finishing third. 

    "I've had a few problems during the stage. My chain dropped, I cramped, but I never gave up," Hirt said.

    "I'm glad I managed to go solo. I always said that my biggest achievement would be to win a stage at the Giro d'Italia and I could stop after that, but I won't stop now."

    Carapaz said: "It's been a hard stage and at the end I'm happy. I thought I was going to win the sprint for third place.

    "I eventually didn't, but it's still a good day for me. I've lost a few seconds on Hindley, but I gained more on [Joao] Almeida."

    Alejandro Valverde, on his final Giro appearance, got himself up the GC standings, though not enough to be a true contender in the final week. He sits 11th overall.
     

    Mythical Mortirolo

    An initially big breakaway group split on the Mortirolo Pass, one of the most notorious climbs in professional cycling.

    Hirt was one of the riders to drop off, but he recovered brilliantly and joined a seven-strong group that wound its way to the final climb.

    "Every time I hear Mortirolo I want to anticipate. I wanted to go in the breakaway today," Hirt said.

    "There were difficult moments when the group split, so then we had to come back on the Mortirolo, then in the end on the last climb I had a problem with my bike, it was not shifting properly and the chain was jumping.

    "Then I had cramps on the downhill, so I had all these problems, but I just wanted to fight all the way to the finish."

    STAGE RESULT 

    1. Jan Hirt (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 5:40:45
    2. Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) +0:07
    3. Jai Hindley (BORA-Hansgrohe) +1:24
    4. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +1:24
    5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:24

    CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

    General Classification

    1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 68:49:06
    2. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:03
    3. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +0:44

    Points Classification

    1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 238 
    2. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 121
    3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 117

    King of the Mountains

    1. Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) 167
    2. Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) 99
    3. Diego Rosa (EOLO-Kometa) 92

  • Giro d'Italia: Ciccone claims emotional stage-15 win as Carapaz retains overall lead Giro d'Italia: Ciccone claims emotional stage-15 win as Carapaz retains overall lead

    Giulio Ciccone broke down in tears after claiming his "most beautiful victory" on stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia, as Richard Carapaz retained the pink jersey ahead of Jai Hindley.    Ciccone, who has suffered an injury-blighted two years, made his decisive move with 19km remaining, breaking clear of Hugh Carthy and Santiago Buitrago on the final uphill stretch towards Cogne, as he recorded his third Giro stage win.   The triumph represents his first since 2019, when he also won the race's mountains classification, and the 27-year-old declared it his finest moment after crossing the line in Northern Italy.   "This was my most beautiful victory," said Ciccone. "It's even better than the yellow jersey in the Tour de France or my first stage win at the Giro.   "It's been a really difficult period. When you try and win and nothing happens, it's always more difficult and it really tries your mental strength. I didn't feel like myself again, but I kept waiting and waiting and I found it today."

    Buitrago took second at 1 minute 31 seconds behind the Trek-Segafredo rider, while Antonio Pedrero was third at 2:19 behind the Italian, with Carthy in fourth.

    Meanwhile, Carapaz retained the overall lead despite crashing with 171km remaining, being one of around a dozen riders to be brought down when the back of the peloton came to a standstill after a collision, with Saturday's stage 14 winner Simon Yates also hitting the deck.

    But the 2019 Giro winner recovered to finish the stage and retain a seven-second advantage over Hindley, with Joao Almeida 30 seconds behind the Ecuadorian, while Koen Bouwman edged ahead of Diego Rosa in the mountain classifications. 

    Ciccone's finest hour

    Ciccone has experienced success at the Giro d'Italia before, claiming a stage-10 win back in 2016 and a stage-16 victory during an impressive showing back in 2019. But the Italian missed the 2020 edition of the race after testing positive for COVID-19 before withdrawing after a crash the following year, and was overcome with emotion after ending two frustrating years by claiming an impressive triumph.

    STAGE RESULT 

    1. Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) 4:37:41
    2. Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) + 1:31
    3. Antonio Pedrero (Spa/Movistar) +2:19 
    4. Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) +3:09
    5. Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM) +4:36

    CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

    General Classification

    1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 63:06:57
    2. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:07
    3. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +0:30

    Points Classification

    1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 238 
    2. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 121
    3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 171

    King of the Mountains

    1. Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) 109
    2. Diego Rosa (EOLO-Kometa) 92
    3. Jai Hindly (Bora-Hansgrohe) 62

  • Giro d'Italia: Yates not satisfied despite thrilling stage 14 win as Carapaz takes maglia rosa Giro d'Italia: Yates not satisfied despite thrilling stage 14 win as Carapaz takes maglia rosa

    Simon Yates did not want to put "a downer" on his stage 14 victory at the Giro d'Italia but is far from satisfied with his overall race. 

    Yates was seen as one of the contenders for the maglia rosa heading into the first Grand Tour of 2022 but the Briton is way down in 17th place in the general classification standings, 18 minutes and 44 seconds off new race leader Richard Carapaz. 

    Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider Yates, who won the individual time trial in Budapest on stage two, finished 15 seconds ahead of second-placed Jai Hindley on a day that threw the race wide open. 

    Yates latched onto a chasing pack that caught up with INEOS Grenadiers rider and 2019 Giro winner Carapaz, who had made a break with 28 kilometres remaining in Saturday's 147km route from Santena to Turin – the first of four consecutive mountain stages. 

    Hindley and Vincenzo Nibali, who is racing in his final Giro, were the initial chasers, but Yates – whose GC hopes were all but ended when he dropped 11 minutes on the Blockhaus climb on stage nine – had the momentum to cruise to victory. 

    While Yates was delighted with a sixth Giro stage win of his career, he could not help but be frustrated by being so far off the pace overall. 

    "I mean, not to put a downer on the day, but I came here to win the race," the 29-year-old said. "For me, it's another stage. I have five already and it's number six. 

    "I hope the legs stay as good as today. Today was a really big effort, not just for me but for everybody. The gaps are enormous, so if this heat sticks around it's going to be a very hard final week." 

    A bad day for Lopez

    Juan Pedro Lopez wore pink for 10 straight days but Saturday's stage was always likely to prove crucial and he went from holding a 12-second lead to ninth place, four minutes and four seconds behind Carapraz. 

    The experienced Ecuadorian attacked at just the right time for the GC standings, even if he was unable to hold on for the stage win.  

    STAGE RESULT

    1. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) 3:43:44 
    2. Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe) +0:15 
    3. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +0:15 
    4. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan Team) +0:15 
    5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) +0:28 

    CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS   

    General Classification  

    1. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) 58:21:28 
    2. Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe) +0:07 
    3. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +0:30 

    Points Classification

    1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 238 
    2. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) 121 
    3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 117 

    King of the Mountains  

    1. Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa) 92 
    2. Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) 69 
    3. Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe) 62 

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