Giro d’Italia stage 17: Egan Bernal on the edge as GC opens up

Wednesday's stage to Sega di Ala provided a dramatic finale and another shake-up in the overall standings.

Photo: Luca Bettini/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

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The Giro d’Italia is back on.

The GC picture took a significant shift in a dramatic summit finish Wednesday. Dan Martin romped up the road for a standout stage win, and for the first time in 17 days, Egan Bernal looked beatable as Simon Yates detonated the classification group.

Bernal wasn’t the only one to suffer on the relentlessly steep slopes of the Sega di Ala. Hugh Carthy, Aleksandr Vlasov, Giulio Ciccone and Romain Bardet all lost their legs as Yates pressed to the line, third on the stage and first of the GC group.

And Damiano Caruso? No surprise to hear the Italian veteran was as steadily unfaltering as ever.

Although the pink jersey didn’t change hands Wednesday, the classification landscape has been subtly resculpted.

Here’s how the GC group sits after the surprise shuffle Wednesday:

  1. Egan Bernal (no change on GC)
  2. Damiano Caruso: +2:21 (no change on GC)
  3. Simon Yates: 3:23 (+2 slots on GC)
  4. Aleksandr Vlasov: 6:03 (no change on GC)
  5. Hugh Carthy: 6:09 (-2 slots on GC)
  6. Romain Bardet: 6:31 (+1 slots on GC)

Bernal buckles, Yates capitalizes

Yates unveiled a crack in Bernal’s armor for the first time of the Giro. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

For the first time at this Giro d’Italia, Bernal looked breakable Wednesday. After dominating at Campo Felice, storming through the strade bianche, and emerging from mist to master the Dolomites on Monday, Bernal’s lights went out in the final 3km of the relentless mountaintop finish on stage 17.

Team BikeExchange had set the tempo nearly all day, and Yates launched from the thinning GC group on the steepest slopes of the Sega di Ala summit. Like on the Zoncolan this weekend, Bernal was fastest to follow, and it looked like the story of Saturday’s stage would be replayed as the Colombian hung limpet-like to Yates’ wheel.

But, then, boom!

Bernal popped and was barely able to hold the wheel of teammate Daniel Martínez as his countryman desperately willed him onward.

Although Bernal recovered to cede just three seconds to Caruso and limit his loss to Yates to less-than one minute, the stage puts a firework under a Giro that had looked a done deal.

Bernal revealed in his rest-day press conference that his back continues to niggle. Either that long-lingering injury, or the fatigue of nine days in the pink jersey – and all the podium and press duties that come with it – could well have taken hold.

While Bernal’s reign in pink is far from over, Wednesday’s unexpected turnaround totally shifts the feel of the race with two big climbing stages to come.

The Colombian still holds a comfortable grip on pink, but those jostling for position behind him will have a new glimmer of hope in their eyes. Was Wednesday a sign of things to come?

Yates will be the most optimistic of the chase pack. The BikeExchange leader had made his move looking to profit from nearest-rivals Hugh Carthy and Aleksandr Vlasov cracking, and he more-than achieved that. He now sits third, with over 2:30 advantage on fourth-place Vlasov.

Yates’ scintillating turn of speed on the Sega di Ala climb Wednesday showed that if he keeps momentum and finally sheds his yo-yoing form from the past two weeks, the bottom step of the podium is the lowest he may go at this Giro.

Vlasov and Ciccone were the first to go …

Vlasov was one of the first to be blown out of the GC group. Photo: Getty Images

Aleksandr Valsov and Giulio Ciccone had been the first to falter on the summit showdown Wednesday.

Vlasov had ridden high into second overall last week, but looks to have steadily come unstitched since. The young Russian was one of the worst-off on the Zoncolan this weekend and proved little better over the Giau on Monday. The slight downturn became a nosedive Wednesday.

Vlasov was one of the first to be dropped from the GC group and lost over 2:30 to Yates. He now sits at the top of the tightly-coiled race for fourth place as Bernal, Caruso and Yates race into the distance.

Ciccone also lost bucketloads of time, but as much through misfortune and missing legs.

The Trek-Segafredo climber was caught in a crash that also brought down Remco Evenepoel in the long descent off the Valentino climb and made a frantic chase to regain contact. After firing all his bullets in the pursuit, Ciccone had an empty chamber when the pace rocketed in the final 10km and lost ground fast.

The Italian lost nearly eight minutes Wednesday and slides to 10th overall, his ambitious GC campaign all but over.

… with Carthy and Bardet blowing soon after

Bettiol towed Carthy to the line after as the Brit’s fortunes hit reverse. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

One of the biggest winners from the snow-swept stage over the Giau came out one of the biggest losers in the splendid sun Wednesday.

Hugh Carthy had set his EF Education-Nippo teammates to work on stage 16 Monday and the American squad lit up the race, blowing Simon Yates out of the action. Yet 48 hours later, the roles reversed.  Carthy cracked under the pressure as Team BikeExchange and then Ineos Grenadiers burned up the slopes of Sega di Ala, and he rode in with his head hung, nearly 3:30 down on Yates.

After looking odds-on for the podium after Monday’s stage, Carthy appears likely to be racing for fourth in the days to come.

Romain Bardet lost the wheels of the lead group at around the same time as Carthy on Wednesday.

The Frenchman had only just reinvigorated his GC hopes with a ride into second on the stage and seventh overall Monday. Although Bardet lost ground to some of his classification rivals on the Sega di Ala climb Wednesday, he actually moved up one slot on the classification as a result of Ciccone so spectacularly exploding just a few minutes beforehand. You win some, you lose some.

The race is still Bernal’s to lose after stage 17, but the race now has an all-new complexion.

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