Egan Bernal at the start of stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia.

Egan Bernal shows he’s human on Giro stage 17

For the first time so far in this Giro d'Italia, Egan Bernal showed signs of weakness on Wednesday's stage 17

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For the first time so far in this Giro d’Italia, Egan Bernal showed signs of weakness on Wednesday’s stage 17. As a much-reduced pack made its way up the first-category Sega di Ala finishing climb, one big name after another dropped off the back – but then it was Bernal himself who couldn’t keep the pace.

When all was said and done, Bernal had held onto pink with plenty of time to spare, but he had shipped time to a few other GC hopefuls, most notably Simon Yates. Yates had started the day in fifth overall, but he picked up nearly a minute on Bernal, moving into third and now sitting 3:23 back.

After the stage, Bernal was calm in his post-race interview, pointing out that his GC lead remains healthy.

“I’m happy because I didn’t lose too much time with Yates. Today was perfect for him, and with [Damiano] Caruso, who is second in GC, I just lost a few meters,” Bernal said. “In a bad day I lost almost nothing to second on GC.”

Indeed, Bernal did limit his losses to his nearest GC rival. Caruso was dropped earlier on the climb but then linked back up with Bernal and Bernal’s teammate Daniel Martínez, who worked hard pedaling for his Colombian compatriot in the closing kilometers while also finding the energy to shout words of encouragement as they neared the finish.

That said, the race had seemed practically out of reach for most of the field prior to Wednesday, but now, it doesn’t seem like such a sure thing that Bernal will close the door on this Giro with ease. Yates looked particularly strong on the Sega di Ala, and Bernal tipped his cap to his rival after the stage.

“Today was a tough day for me for sure. The last kilometer or so was really steep and I tried to follow Yates but today he was stronger than me,” he said. “Then I just tried to ride with Caruso, who is the closest in the GC. I don’t want to take any risks. Yates today was impressive. I just did my best.”

Those watching the stage may have been stunned by Bernal suddenly appearing human. After more than two weeks of looking untouchable on the bike, Bernal was a far less dominant race leader on stage 17. With five stages to go, it suddenly looks as if we have a real race on our hands again.

Bernal himself, however, gave little indication that he was concerned with the day’s events. A lead is a lead, even if it shrank a somewhat on Wednesday.

“I have some advantage with Yates, so I just need to arrive with some time to Milan,” Bernal said. “If I win the Giro with one second or two minutes, for me it will be the same.”