Bernal with two Giro stages left: ‘I’ll just try to manage the gap I have’
For the second time this week on Friday, Egan Bernal lost time to a Giro d’Italia rival but maintained a firm grip on pink. The race leader arrived at the mountaintop finish of the 19th stage of the Giro 28 seconds behind stage winner Simon Yates, who is in third overall, but four seconds ahead of second-placed Damiano Caruso.
Considering his current form, which doesn’t look quite as strong now as it did a week ago, Bernal knew he needed to limit any losses on the tough final climb on Friday, and he did just that. He is now just two stages away from securing the overall win, with Caruso sitting 2:29 down and Yates 2:49 down.
“I felt actually really good. I did really good numbers, I did a really good climb,” Bernal said of his stage 19 ride. “I’m really happy with my climb. Of course Yates was the best today and chapeau for him but I’m really happy with my condition.”
Bernal’s performance on the Alpe di Mera was an improvement on his performance on the previous high-mountain stage, Wednesday’s stage 17, where he lost 53 seconds to Yates, faltering for the first time this Giro. In the closing kilometers of Friday’s stage, he calmly watched Yates and several other riders fire off attacks, only to patiently reel most of those moves back in.
Ultimately, only Yates and Almeida would cross the line ahead of him. Riding a far more conservative race on stage 19 than he did when he powered to a dominant stage 16 win, Bernal kept the damage minimal and even gained ground on Caruso.
Stage 20 will give Yates and Caruso one last day in the mountains to challenge Bernal’s hefty lead before the stage 21 time trial. Bernal should thrive at the high elevations stage 20 will reach, and he is now focused more on maintaining his lead than making any emphatic mountaintop statements like the one he made on stage 16.
“Tomorrow I hope to have the same feelings as today,” he said. “I’ll just try to manage the gap I have with the two guys who are in the podium.”
If he can make it through stage 20 with most of his lead intact, Bernal probably won’t have too much to worry about from Yates in the time trial, as both riders tend to be decent but not stellar against the clock. Caruso is more of a question mark, having put in a few great TTs in recent years and a few less great ones, but unless he can make up significant ground on stage 20, Caruso’s chances of overhauling Bernal for pink look slim. As such, the race leader was pleased with the way things were going on Friday even if he doesn’t look quite as strong as he did only a few days ago.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I think I have some time to play [with], so I just want to have legs for the time trial and it should be okay.”