Yates wins atop Alpe di Mera to claw back more time

Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) took victory on Stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia after a see-sawing race situation on the final climb of Alpe di Mera saw him eventually emerge with the win to claw back more time on race leader Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers).

104th Giro d'Italia 2021 - Stage 19

Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange takes out Stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia. Source: Getty

It was a fast-run stage at the Giro d'Italia, with the peloton only letting a small break of six riders go early, with Team BikeExchange and Deceuninck-QuickStep then committing to the chase to keep the escapees within reach.

Such was the pace-making, the race actually split on the descent of one of the early climbs, with INEOS Grenadiers having to pace super domestique Dani Martinez back to the front. The peloton came into the final climb of the stage with a hot pace and with the breakaway within sight at under a minute's advantage, with the summit finish to the top of Alpe di Mera all that remained. 

João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was the first to test the waters on the final climb, attacking with 6.8 kilometres left. Yates then followed with his own move with 6.4 kilometres left, dragging a select group clear, notably missing race leader Bernal. Yates then upped the pace again to leave the other climbers behind and strike out on a bid to take as much time as possible on Bernal. 

A strong, measured chase by INEOS Grenadiers, led by Martinez and Castroviejo saw the Bernal group sweep up all the attackers bar Yates as the 2018 Vuelta a Espana winner pushed his advantage out to 35 seconds over the chasers.

The pace-making of Martinez saw the gap shrink to just 18 seconds, with Bernal attacking just as his lieutenant pulled off the front, taking just Almeida with him as he tried to hunt down Yates. The Team BikeExchange rider dug deep to hold his lead, and as the race entered the final kilometre, it became clear that Yates would win, the question being by how much as he eyed a move up the general classification. 

He pushed on to win ahead of Almeida by 11 seconds as Bernal limited his losses to 28 seconds to the British climber with two stages to go.

Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), who started the day in second overall, was dropped by both Yates and Bernal but remains in second place, two minutes and 29 seconds down on the race leader with Yates just twenty seconds further adrift.

“I’m really happy," said Yates at the finish. "The team did a fantastic job today. We controlled the start, rode well behind and then I finished it off. I saw the boys from INEOS were just happy to ride at tempo behind so I had a feeling they would let me go today.

"It was not the most difficult stage. It’ll be different tomorrow at a higher altitude. I don’t have any regrets for the way I rode on the first week, I had some little problems and I think I managed everything the best I could. The gap to the maglia rosa is still quite important but I am closer to Caruso now who is in second place.”

Bernal looked significantly more composed than on the Sega di Ala during Stage 17 where he lost 53 seconds to Yates, with the more risk-averse strategy of following his strong teammates when Yates attacked from a long way out paying dividends in the end as he finished third on the day.

"It's difficult when they attack and straightaway they take 10, 20, 30 seconds in a short space of time," said Bernal of Yates. "But I wasn't going slowly, and I knew they had to have sore legs in front and they would have to recover a bit.

"When I need to go from a long way out and when I have the legs, I try to do it. But in this moment, I know there's a rider who is stronger than me, and that's Yates."

Bernal recognised the work of his teammates in the finale, a luxury not afforded to many of his contenders at the Giro d'Italia.

"Now I have to manage the advantage that I built up by attacking earlier on," said Bernal. "There's the work of a whole team behind this jersey, and I don't want to do something wrong and lose it. I want to ride with my head to try to bring this jersey to Milan."

The Giro d'Italia continues with another day in the high mountains for Stage 20 as the peloton tackles three Category 1 climbs in the finale of the stage for over 4,200 climbing metres total. Watch the racing from 2010 AEST on SBS OnDemand, with SBS VICELAND coverage starting at 2120.

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
5 min read
Published 29 May 2021 at 7:36am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS