What the GC riders said after another Bernal show of strength

Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) put in another commanding performance in the Giro d'Italia, this time on the 'sterrato', the white roads of Tuscany, to tighten his grip on the pink jersey.

104th Giro d'Italia 2021 - Stage 11

The pelot in full flight on Stage 11 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia. Source: Getty

INEOS Grenadiers made things very hard from the beginning of the gravel sectors and Bernal then attacked and put pressure on the front of the race personally to ensure that it was a impactful day for the top contenders for the maglia rosa in Milan.

Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) - Race Leader

Bernal can scarcely have been much more impressive, putting more time into all his rivals on the day and looking assured on the shifting gravel surface throughout the second half of the stage. Given that he's a high mountain specialist and he's already winning, it's looking like a tough road ahead for his competitors.

“Today was really hard," said Bernal."With the sterrato we expected some big gaps, and there were a lot of GC riders losing time. I’m happy to stay in front and we need to stay focussed in the coming days.”

Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) - 3rd on GC - 1'12

Caruso has finished top 10 in every Grand Tour in his career, but he's never really been seen as a top rider for the general classification. He's riding to a potential career-best performance here after team leader Mikel Landa crashed out of the race and though he lacks the pizazz of his competitors, he's one to watch.

“I’m super happy because today was a key stage of this Giro," said Caruso. "It was a tough and complicated one. In the end, I felt good, although when Maglia Rosa went, I couldn’t follow him. But I think I did a good race anyway.

"Now it’s time to recover from the stage. Then we will see day by day. We need to keep calm, and at this moment, I want to think only about recovering well.”

Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) - 5th on GC - 1'22 behind

Yates wasn't expected to excel on the gravel and after being caught behind when the peloton split on the first section, his teammates worked hard to bring him back. Yates then hovered at the back of the main group of favourites, but had enough left at the finish to limit his losses to Bernal and move up to fifth. 

“Looking at the situation with the GC, it was a good day," said Yates. "I’ve moved up to fifth, so onwards and upwards.”

“It wasn’t a day I was looking forward to and I think I did a good ride, I had good legs. Now I’m looking forward to the days to come.”

“Gravel’s not my favorite terrain, I don’t have much experience riding off-road other than at Strade earlier in the year which I think was very valuable in getting experience. It helped me a lot today, as well as doing the recon before the race. I’m just happy to get through it.”

Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) - 6th on GC - 1'50 behind

Apart from Bernal, the big winner of the day was Buchmann, who rocketed up from 15th overall to sixth with his attacking ride.

"I felt pretty good from the start today and the team positioned me well in the first sector," said Buchmann. "It was a very tough race and on the gravel sections we went full throttle and I was always in front.

"On the last climb, I looked at the other riders and thought I'd give it a go. In the end, Egan joined me and we crossed the finish line together. I think that was a really good race and we can hope to continue like this."

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) - 7th on GC - 2'22

Evenepoel, second overall at the start of the day and just 14 seconds behind Bernal, was one of the big losers of the day, conceding more than two minutes to the pink jersey. The 21-year-old was dropped with 25km remaining after a long time yo-yoing off the rear of the group.

There was then some drama between him and teammate Joao Almeida, who waited a long time to drop back to help the rider in a superior position on the general classification. Then, when he did drop back he dropped Evenepoel causing the Belgian to rip his earpiece out in frustration. 

“Unfortunately, I lost two minutes," said Evenepoel. "It wasn’t the best day for me. I was suffering a lot on the second sector, then on the third one, when they started sprinting, I felt the legs were pretty empty, that’s why I was in the last position and couldn’t follow.

"It’s the way my body reacted after eleven days of racing that came after so much time with no racing. I’m thankful to the team and João for the job they did for me today, from the start until the finish. It’s not a good result for me, but I’m still seventh in my first Grand Tour and remain confident, as there’s still a long way to go until Milano.”

Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) - 18th on GC - 7'06 behind

The Irishman had been climbing with the best in the Giro, but had a very bad day on the gravel and finished in a group with Nick Schultz (Team BikeExchange) and Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), both of whom also dropped off good positions in the top 20.

Martin was dropped on the first gravel sector and never found his way back to the front group, conceding over six minutes to Bernal on the day. 

“Personally, I was a bit too relaxed," said Martin. "Everyone was battling for positions; I got a few pushes and lost my head for a while.”

“My teammates did amazing by bringing me back to the second peloton. From there we nearly bridged the gap to the front.”

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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6 min read
Published 20 May 2021 at 10:43am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS