Damiano Caruso made a huge bid to win the Giro d’Italia on the race’s final mountain stage, going clear with several others with two climbs and over 50 kilometres remaining and then scooping the first Grand Tour stage win of his career.
The Bahrain-Victorious rider had begun the race in support of team leader Mikel Landa but was thrust into the limelight after the latter crashed out on stage five. Caruso started the day two minutes 29 seconds behind race leader Egan Bernal in second overall and while he didn’t gain enough time to seriously threaten the Colombian’s pink jersey, he reached the line at Alpe Motta alone to secure a career-best victory.
He finished 24 seconds ahead of Bernal and a further 11 seconds ahead of the latter’s Ineos Grenadiers teammate Dani Martínez and Roman Bardet (Team DSM). The latter had been in the breakaway with Caruso until being dropped on the final climb.
Caruso was elated about his success. “I thought about a thousand things in the last metres before the finish line, all my sacrifices, my training, and all the work done by my teammates,” he said. “We rode in an exemplary way today. [TEAMMATE]Pello Bilbao in particular did an incredible job and he played a fundamental role in this victory. Today I realised a dream, I think I am the happiest man in the world.”
Caruso, Bardet, Bilbao and Bardet’s teammate Michael Storer went clear of the bunch on the descent of the first of the day’s three categorised climbs. The first two of those were over 2,000 metres in altitude and on the second, the Spluga, the four caught and dropped the riders from an early break and crested the summit 45 seconds in front of the Bernal group.
Bernal still had strong Ineos Grenadiers’ support and these teammates prevented the leaders from getting too far ahead. Bilbao and Storer were dropped by Caruso and Bardet on the final climb, with Bardet then being distanced with just over two kilometres left.
Caruso went on to win, while Bernal raced in for second, gaining time on all of the other overall contenders. These included Friday’s stage winner Simon Yates (BikeExchange), who was expected by many to put in a big bid to try to win the Giro. However, he instead cracked on the final stretch and finished 51 seconds behind Caruso in sixth.
Bernal will start Sunday’s final day time trial one minute 59 seconds clear of Caruso and three minutes 23 ahead of Yates. Barring crashes, he appears certain to win the race. He previously became the-then third-youngest Tour de France champion in 2019, triumphing at 22 years of age.
“I am satisfied with the result,” he said. “I think we managed the situation well. Finally we have two minutes in advantage for tomorrow’s time trial, so I think we are in a good position. It is not the best to have the second [RIDER]in the GC [general classification] almost a minute in front of you, but I still had three teammates. I tried to use them and arrive as fresh as possible for the last climb and also for tomorrow. We managed the situation well, even though it was difficult.”
Ireland’s Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) finished a solid 14th on the stage, just over three minutes behind Caruso. He remains 10th overall and will head into the final stage 16 minutes 48 seconds behind Bernal. He took the first Giro d’Italia stage win of his career on Wednesday, becoming the 102nd rider in the history of cycling to record stage wins in all three Grand Tours.
Sunday’s time trial is a flat 30.3 kilometre race against the clock.
Giro d’Italia Italy (WorldTour) Stage 20 Verbania to Valle Spluga-Alpe Motta
1 Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) 164 kilometres in 4 hours 27 mins 53 secs, 2 E Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) at 24, 3 D Martinez Poveda (Ineos Grenadiers) at 35, 4 R Bardet (Team DSM) same time, 5 J Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 41, 6 S Yates (Team BikeExchange) at 51
Irish: 14 D Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) at 3.10, 101 N Roche (Team DSM) at 32.58
Teams: 1 Jumbo-Visma 13 hours 32 mins 35 secs, 2 Ineos Grenadiers at 21, 3 Astana-Premier Tech at 43
Other: 12 Team DSM at 24.03, 14 Israel Start-up Nation at 34.22
General classification after stage 20
1 Egan Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) 85 hours 41 mins 47 secs, 2 D Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) at 1.59, 3 S Yates (Team BikeExchange) at 3.23, 4 A Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) at 7.07, 5 R Bardet (Team DSM) at 7.48, 6 D Martinez Poveda (Ineos Grenadiers) at 7.56
Irish: 10 D Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) at 16.48, 59 N Roche (Team DSM) at 2 hours 39.18
Points classification: 1 Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 136, 2 D Cimolai (Israel Start-up Nation) 118, 3 F Gaviria Rendon (UAE Team Emirates) 116
Mountains classification: 1 Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën Team) 184, 2 E Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) 140, 3 D Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) 99
Irish: 4 D Martin (Israel Start-up Nation) 83
Young riders classification: 1 Egan Bernal Gomez (Ineos Grenadiers) 85 hours 41 mins 47 secs, 2 A Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) at 7.07, 3 D Martinez Poveda (Ineos Grenadiers) at 7.56
Combativity classification: Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) Sprints classification: Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) Breakaway classification: Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec)
Fair Play classification: 1 Bahrain Victorious, 2 Team DSM, 3 Jumbo-Visma
Other: 4 Israel Start-up Nation
Teams classification: 1 Ineos Grenadiers 257 hours 47 mins 2 secs, 2 Jumbo-Visma at 26.01, 3 Team DSM at 26.02
Other: 17 Israel Start-up Nation at 4 hours 39.49