Schmid wins as Bernal hammers home lead over Giro gravel

Mauro Schmid (Qhubeka-ASSOS) took the biggest win of his career from the breakaway, but it was the action among the general classification contenders that turned heads on Stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia over the white roads of Tuscany.

104th Giro d'Italia 2021 - Stage 11

Egan Bernal of INEOS Grenadiers leads the way on the gravel sectors at the Giro d'Italia. Source: Getty

Schmid and Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) emerged from a breakaway of 11 riders that were allowed to get out to a massive advantage of over 14 minutes on the 162 kilometre stage from Perugia to Montalcino. The two riders fought their way clear of the early move with Dries de Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) on the final gravel sector, before dropping the Belgian national champion on the climb that just preceded the race finish.

The two came into the finishing straight together and while Covi pulled ahead initially in the sprint, it was Schimd who had the staying power and took the win comfortably, celebrating with exuberance as he crossed the line.

"I can’t believe it, it’s my first international win and I would never have expected it to be at a grand tour," said Schmid. "I was not even expecting to do a Grand Tour this year, but the team believed in me and I got the chance to do the Giro. It’s an amazing race and it means a lot to me."


While the battle up the road for the stage was entertaining, there was enthralling action taking place from behind in the battle for the general classification.  

The four sectors of 'sterrato' packed into the final 70km of the route made this one of the key stages of the entire Giro in the fight for the pink jersey, with many teams and riders singling out the day in Tuscany and Umbria as the most decisive day ahead of the race.

Race leader Egan Bernal and INEOS Grenadiers were consistently on the offensive over the gravel sectors, with Filippo Ganna and Gianni Moscon splitting the peloton on the early sectors and then continuing to see riders dropped with their pace-making.

By the time Ganna led the peloton them off the first sector, there was a 30-second gap back to a group of contenders, including Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Alexandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech), Simon Yates (BikeExchange), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), and Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-Hansgrohe). Their teams contributed to the chase back to the INEOS group and managed to close it down ahead of the second sector.

Despite the big chase back on, there were already major casualties, as Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) had a mechanical, Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and highest-placed Australian on the general classification Nick Schultz (BikeExchange) were left in a group further in arrears that would concede over six minutes to Bernal by the finish.

With many of the favourites now back in the front group, some were visibly struggling to maintain contact, Evenepoel, in particular, was dangling off the back at times, especially on the descents. A rapid pace from Moscon and then Bernal himself coming forward to lead the way saw Evenepoel and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) dropped. Other teams in Movistar and EF Education-Nippo took to the front of the race to assist in putting time into the distanced riders.

On the final climb, cresting just 4.2 kilometres before the finish line saw yet more fireworks as Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) ground his way off the front of the EF Education-Nippo group. Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) tried to make use of his teammate's work but it was Bernal who surged clear when the pace was upped, jumping across to Buchmann, with the pair going clear as riders like Marc Soler (Movistar) and Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) cracked dramatically. 

With now no teammates left, it was all down to the strongest riders in the race to fight it out to take valuable time on the general standings and Buchmann and Bernal worked well together to put as much time into their rivals as possible on the run to the line. By the finish, they stopped the clock on stage-winner Schmid at three minutes and two seconds, with Bernal sprinting a few seconds clear of Buchmann at the line, underlining his dominance.

The GC riders crossed in ones and twos from there, with Vlasov now second overall behind Bernal, 45 seconds behind the so-far dominant Colombian, while all other riders are a minute behind the pink jersey.

The highest finishing Australian was Jai Hindley (Team DSM) who was 35th on the stage and now sits 22nd overall on the general classification, seven minutes and 55 seconds behind Bernal.

The 2021 Giro d'Italia continues on SBS with a day in the medium mountains, with a 212-kilometre stage from Siena to Bagno di Romagna looking like a day for the breakaway to shine. Watch the racing from 1915 AEST on SBS On Demand, with SBS VICELAND coverage starting at 2120.

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5 min read
Published 20 May 2021 at 8:12am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS