- Yates wins summit finish on stage 19
- Bernal finishes third to extend lead
- Caruso retains second, Yates third
Simon Yates won stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia to set up what should be a thrilling finish to the race this weekend as Ineos Grenadiers’ long time leader Egan Bernal faced further searching questions over his fitness.
Yates (BikeExchange) closed to within 2min 49sec of his Ineos Grenadiers rival after his win atop the Alpe di Mera with another big mountain day to come on Saturday before Sunday’s final time trial in Milan.
Bernal has led the race since stage nine, looking brilliant for most of that time. But the 24 year-old showed the first signs of weakness on Wednesday when he was unable to go with a Yates attack. And as the race hit the mountains again all eyes were on the Colombian to see whether Wednesday’s performance was a one-off or part of a pattern.
The jury is still out. Yates countered an attack by Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick Step) with 6.5km to go of the final climb, to take a solo win on the summit finish, with the Portuguese crossing the line 11 seconds behind in second position.
Bernal, who had strong support from his Ineos Grenadiers team, did not panic when Yates initially went, instructing his team to ride tempo and to keep the gap manageable. They did exactly that, and when he had used all his team mates up, Bernal was able to rouse himself to go solo for the last few kilometres.
But he still did not look entirely comfortable and was unable to go with Almeida at the finish. Bernal ended up crossing the line 28 seconds behind Yates, who remains third on the general classification behind Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) and right in contention.
“I’m really happy,” Yates said. “The team did a fantastic job. They really controlled the start and worked a lot and I managed to finish it off so I’m really happy.
“I saw the boys from Ineos were happy just to ride a tempo and I had a feeling they would let me go. I read something from Egan on Twitter or whatever about how they would be conservative and try to control rather than go with me and as soon as I attacked I saw that was correct.”
Saturday’s stage – which features over 4,000m of vertical gain – heads into Switzerland and includes three first category climbs where Yates can again try to test Bernal’s legs – and possibly his back, with the injury which ended his Tour de France defence last year still apparently causing him some issues.