Simon Yates went solo to win stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia but Egan Bernal increased his overall lead with two days to go.

Yates showed he is still very much up for the fight in the battle for the maglia rosa on Friday, climbing to victory in Alpe di Mera.

Englishman Yates went on his own six-and-a-half kilometres from the end of the lung-busting 166 km ride from Abbiategrasso and had more than enough in the legs to pull away.

The Team BikeExchange rider moved two minutes and 49 seconds adrift of Bernal, who crossed the line in third place behind Joao Almeida.

Bernal edged his advantage over second-placed Damiano Caruso in the general classification up to two minutes and 29 seconds, but Yates made another statement ahead of a brutal penultimate stage in the mountains on Saturday.

The Colombian initially reacted well when Yates surged away on a steep final ascent to the finish, but was then clearly suffering.

A fourth Giro stage win for Yates, adding to the three he won in 2018, leaves the race nicely poised ahead of such a tough stage 20 at high altitude and a time trial to finish on Sunday.

INEOS Grenadiers rider Bernal was left to fend for himself with 2.4km to go as Daniel Martinez was unable to stay with him and had to dig in two days after Yates also made time on him in the mountains.

Yates said: "I'm really happy. The team did a great job right from the start of the stage, a fantastic team effort and I'm happy to have finished it off.

"I really wanted to win a stage in this Giro, I'm not sure where I am now in the general classification but I'm really happy about this win."

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) 4:02:55
2. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) +00:11
3. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) +00:04
4. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious)
5. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana–Premier Tech)

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 77:10:18
2. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) +02:29
3. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) +02:49

Points Classification

1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 135
2. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) 113
3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates) 110

King of the Mountains

1. Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroen Team) 180
2. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 121
3. Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) 83

Dan Martin went solo to claim a maiden Giro d'Italia stage victory and leader Egan Bernal finally showed signs of weakness on a brutal final climb.

Martin moved away on his own just over 10 kilometres from the end of the gruelling 193km stage 17 from Canazei to Sega di Ala and there was no catching the Irishman.

The Israel Start-Up Nation rider was the only member of a breakaway group, which had included eight men at one point, who was not reeled in.

Martin's victory completed a Grand Tour clean sweep, with two Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana successes already to his name.

He finished 13 seconds ahead of Joao Almeida and crossed the finishing line 30 seconds before Simon Yates, who showed he is still very much up for the fight in the battle for the maglia rosa.

Bernal had won stage 16 in impressive fashion on Monday, but looked in trouble on steep sections on a long final ascent in the maglia rosa.

The INEOS Grenadiers had to grit his teeth as Yates shot up the mountain in front of him, yet is still in a strong position with an advantage of two minutes and 21 seconds over Damiano Caruso.

Yates moved into third place overall, with three minutes and 23 seconds to make up on the 2019 Tour de France champion from Colombia.

Bernal has been troubled by a lingering back injury and had to really dig in, with great support from team-mate Daniel Martinez, as Yates made a statement in the final week of the race.

Hugh Carthy dropped off the podium to fifth as he suffered late on another hugely challenging day.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) 4:54:38
2. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) +00:13
3. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) +00:30
4. Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) +01:20
5. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) +01:20

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 71:32:05
2. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) +02:21
3. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) +03:23

Points Classification

1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 135
2. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) 113
3. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates) 110

King of the Mountains

1. Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroen Team) 180
2. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 109
3. Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) 79

INEOS Grenadiers started the defence of their Giro d'Italia title in some style on Saturday, as Filippo Ganna cruised to victory in the stage one time trial.

Tao Geoghegan Hart finished top of the general classification standings in 2020, and Ganna ensured INEOS hold the maglia rosa once more after day one. 

Ganna won the same stage last year – a 15km individual time trial from Monreale to Palermo – and repeated the feat on an 8.6km course in Turin this time around.

The defending time trial world champion, who won four stages in total in the 2020 Giro, went round in a time of 8:47, beating Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) by 10 seconds.

Affini and his team-mate Tobias Foss had looked well placed after their efforts, but Ganna ultimately had far too much power as he claimed what is the third-fastest individual time trial record in Giro history.

"It was a lot of time waiting in the hot seat at the finish, but I've won the stage, I'm here, and I'm really happy," Ganna, who recorded an estimated average speed of 58.748kmph, said in a flash interview.

"Now, we think about tomorrow, and recovering, because this Giro is really hard. I have this amazing victory."

Ganna is the first rider to wear the pink jersey after stage one of successive Giros since Francisco Moser in 1984 and 1985, while only Diego Ulissi (eight) and Vincenzo Nibali (seven) have won more stages in the event of the riders taking part this year.

Deceuninck-Quick Step riders Joao Almeida, Remi Cavagna and Remco Evenepoel all claimed top 10 finishes, while only a second separated GC favourites Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) and Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers), who recorded times of 9:07 and 9:08 respectively.

STAGE RESULT 

1. Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 8:47
2. Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) +00:10
3. Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) +00:13
4. Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:17
5. Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:41

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 8:47
2. Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) +00:10
3. Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) +00:13

Points Classification

1. Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers) 15
2. Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) 12
3. Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) 9

King of the Mountains

N/A

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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