Bernal gravel assault takes Stage 9 and pink jersey in style

Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) won stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia and took over the race lead with an explosive attack on the steep gravel track at Campo Felice.

Egan Bernal, Giro d'Italia, Stage 9

Egan Bernal enroute to victory on Stage 9 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia Source: Getty

Bernal overtook the remnants of the early breakaway like they were standing still on the loose surface that paced the final few kilometres of the Campo Felice climb. He left the rest of the general classification contenders in his wake with the powerful surge from 500 metres remaining, but despite the impressive pace, he was only able to put seconds into his rivals with the move.

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) were second and third at seven seconds, while Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was ten seconds in arrears of Bernal in fourth to retain his second-place position on general classification.

Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) finished alongside Evenepoel, and a couple of seconds behind them came in another group featuring many of the GC contenders, including Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious).

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Bernal will be the new pink jersey after the previous leader Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) was dropped earlier on the climb after a hard fight.



“I can’t believe what’s happening,” said Bernal. “I just won my first stage in a Grand Tour. I think I did a lot of sacrifices to be in this position after the Tour last year [where back problems forced him to abandon]. I’m really happy.”

Coming into the race under a cloud of uncertainty with a persistent back injury, Bernal has shown no signs so far of being hampered and looks currently to be the strongest climber in the race.

“I was thinking of doing really well today, but I wasn’t sure if I’d go for the stage. But my teammates had a lot of confidence in me. I wasn’t sure, but they told me, ‘you can do it’...I think this victory is more for them, because they really believed in me.”



It was a big fight earlier in the stage to get into the breakaway, as even some of the more dangerous riders for the overall title got involved in the initial attacks.

Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) and Dani Martinez (INEOS Grenadiers), who were genuine GC threats at 39 seconds and a minute and six seconds down on pre-stage leader Valter, latched onto an attack by Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates to join a big leading group.

Caruso’s Bahrain Victorious teammate Gino Mäder reached the top of the climb first ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën) to extend his lead in the mountains classification, and on the descent, along with teammate Matej Mohoric (who was also in the front group) descended quickly to try and drive home the break's advantage.

Mohoric is renowned as one of the best descenders in the peloton but suffered a sickening crash as he lost control and flipped over his handlebars, snapping his bike's fork. He landed on his head, and although he regained his feet, there was sufficient concern over his condition that he was taken away in an ambulance.



While the attackers tried to push on from there, the peloton weren't keen to let them go, and had the group brought back into the fold.

Simon Carr (EF Education-Nippo) was the one the force the breakaway finally, attacking clear on an uncategorised climb that immediately followed the descent with 85 kilometres left in the race. He was joined by six more riders:

Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana-Premier Tech), Nicholas Edet (Cofidis), Bouchard, Mollema, Filippo Zana (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) and Matteo Fabbro (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Eight more riders joined them at the front: Tony Gallopin (AG2R Citroën), Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo), George Bennett, Koen Bouwman (both Jumbo-Visma), Tanel Kangert (BikeExchange), Australian Michael Storer (Team DSM), Einer Rubio (Movistar) and Ulissi.

This time the peloton was finally content with the make-up of the break and relented in their chase. Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) and Eduardo Sepulveda (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) managed to bridge across to the leaders and the 16-man 'early' break had formed.

The riders managed to push out their advantage to three minutes and there it hovered, with the peloton keeping a tight leash on the move despite no obvious major threat to the GC present.

The gap began to be reduced in earnest on the penultimate climb of the day and the riders in the break started to attack each other, with Carr and Bouchard going clear. The pair reached the top of the category two climb with a lead of a handful of seconds over the rest, Bouchard gained maximum points to become the virtual leader in the King of the Mountains classification.

The final climb of the day looked an imposing challenge, with some tough slopes preceding the final steep gravel section to the finish line. There was a flat and descending plateau to negotiate at high speed and Bouchard used a slight uphill section to attack and drop Carr, who drifted back to a chasing group consisting of Mollema, Bouwman and Storer.

The peloton led into the final climb at a searing pace as the GC teams all tried to keep their leaders at the front, but lone leader Bouchard retained a lead of about two minutes at the foot of the climb, with the chasing quartet 20 seconds behind the Frenchman.

On the climb, Valter began to struggle inside the final 5km, drifting to the back of the peloton that was thinning out as INEOS Grenadiers set a high pace. That tempo saw Bouchard and the rest of the break’s lead evaporate, and Bouchard’s gap dipped to below a minute three kilometres from the finish with still the hardest sections of the ascent to come.

Bouwman attacked the chasing group, and caught Bouchard shortly after beginning the gravel section, 1km from the finish. But both appeared to be standing still as an attack from Bernal sped past them, the Colombian exploding off a hot pace from Gianni Moscon that had seen Valter dropped.

Ciccone and Vlasov were the quickest to respond, but neither was a match for Bernal, finishing second and third respectively at seven seconds in arrears. Remo Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was three seconds further behind in fourth to retain his second-place position on GC.

Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) finished alongside Evenepoel, and a couple of seconds behind them came in another group featuring many of the GC contenders, including Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious).

Australia's highest placed finisher was Nick Schultz (Team BikExchange) in 19th, with pre-race favourite Jai Hindley (Team DSM) in 27th, again just off the pace of the best climbers at this year's Giro d'Italia.

The Giro d'Italia continues on SBS tonight with Stage 10, live from 2130 on SBS VICELAND and SBS OnDemand. An hilly finish to the stage could see it go the way of the sprinters or a late attack, and it promises to be yet another exciting finale!


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7 min read
Published 17 May 2021 at 8:16am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS