GIRO’21 Final Week Rant: The Bold Bernal Takes the Giro!


Giro Final Rant: The 2021 Giro d’Italia lived up to all our hopes and even though the pink jersey was on the shoulders of Egan Bernal from stage 9 to the finish, the race lost no excitement. Ed Hood was glued to his TV set to give us his Giro final summing up.

# You can see the ‘First Rest Day Rant’ HERE and ‘The Second Rest Day Rant’ HERE. #

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A well deserved podium

There was us thinking that The Emerald Isle’s favourite Brummie – that’s person from Birmingham, to you folks in North America – move to Israel Start-Up Nation was just one last big pay day before Father Time closes the book on him. Not a bit of it. As the body builders might say of his technique; ‘he’s all elbows and knees’ but a Giro stage win is a Giro stage win. Chapeau! Sen. Daniel Martin. With Cav, Greipel and now Dan all ‘rolling away the stone,’ can Christopher do the same?

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Welcome back Dan

Rest days; some riders savour them and come out of them fresh and ‘rarin’ to go’ but some ‘block’ as they lose the rhythm of the race; that was how it looked to me with Bernal. With Stage 18 one for the breakaway and no killer climb to the line it’s unlikely that Yates will be able to press on with his attack and by ‘Video Nasty’ Stages 19 and 20 the Colombian should be back in his groove. But as every day of this Giro endorses; ‘expect the unexpected.’ However, ‘chapeau!’ to Simon Yates for breathing life into what might have been a processional last week.

Almeida was good on stage 17

Joao Almeida must be rueing that early, ‘giornato no’ and Hugh Carthy must regret his pronouncement that had Monday’s stage run the full distance it would have been his stepping stone to victory.

Remco, descents and gravel don’t seem to go together

xpedo cxr pedalbanner with Brian McCullough

Remco: former Belgian Time Trial Champion and man of steel, Bert Roesems once said to me that the smartest thing that his compatriot, Philippe Gilbert did when he turned professional was NOT to do it with a Belgian team. The fledgling Phil Gil signed with French team, Francaise des Jeux, away from the full glare of the rabid Belgian Media and was able to develop without his every move being dissected. Remco turned pro with Belgium’s biggest team and his every move is subject to a glistening scalpel. Despite the bookies marking the former soccer player down as a favourite it was difficult for me to see him being a final podium contender given his age, lack of experience at this level and time on the side lines. But as the philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said; ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger.’

Stage 17

My curiosity about Alberto Bettiol was first piqued after seeing the result of the closing time trial in Tirreno-Adriatico in 2019 where he finished second within three seconds of stage winner, Victor Campenaerts. ‘Raging Bull,’ Victor was at that time reigning Belgian and European Time Trial Champion and a chrono World podium finisher.
‘Who’s this guy?’ I thought to myself and duly wrote a piece about the man. It was prescient; within days he’d won the Ronde.

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Alberto Bettiol – De Ronde winner

His best results after the Ronde in 2019 were to stand on the podium of the Italian road race and time trial championships. Last year there was a time trial win in the early season Etoile des Beseges before the pandemic struck – then there were fourth places in the Strade Bianche and Gent-Wevelgem with top 20 placings in the Ronde and Worlds. Good but not stellar. This year there have been top seven placings in the Etoile and Tirreno time tests but little else to suggest great form from the now 27 year-old Tuscan. But he’s been active and strong in this Giro with his pursuit, capture and pulling the communication cord on the ‘Clermont-Ferrand TGV,’ Cavagna speaking for themselves. As they say; ‘when he’s hot, he’s hot!’ Irrespective of what Hugh Carthy does tomorrow and Saturday, Bettiol has made it a good a good Giro for Jonathan Vaughters team. And I hate to admit it BUT, that EF jersey is, ‘growing on me.’

Stage win for Bettiol

Meanwhile, the Remco polemic grinds on. As well as PEZ soothsayer and mentor, Vik bending my ear, I have Scottish US ex-pat, Colin keeping me right. One of his suggestions, which may sound silly but might just not be a bad plot, is that Remco should spend the summer riding the Belgian kermises and learn how to handle his bike. . .

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Remco not looking too good

And tomorrow will answer the 64,000 lira question; ‘Egan – post-rest day ‘block’ or crisis?’ I think the former – but the road will confirm. One thing I can confirm though is that this Piemonte Grappa Cocchi is damn fine splendid. . .

Stage 18

As Barry White said; ‘it’s just not enough.’ Baz was of course referring to his lady’s love, whilst In Simon Yates’ case it’s time. . . A great ride from the Englishman to win the stage but not enough time won back to overly worry the man in pink.

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Stage win for Simon Yates, but it’s not enough

A very measured and cool under fire performance from the maglia rosa. He didn’t panic, he didn’t go ‘deep’ and his margins of safety are solid – 2:29 on Caruso and 2:49 on Yates. Yates is to be commended for his attacking spirit though; at this stage of many a Grand Tour the podium incumbents and their management are risk averse – a podium is a podium, no one remembers who was fourth.

Almeida was strong in the last week

To repeat myself, Almeida must be rueing that ‘giornato no’ early in the race even more as he grabs another stage second place and confirms he’s one of the strongest of the last men standing but at 8:26 he has no chance of a podium. And it was an unusual day in that there was not a single change in the top 10 status quo with the only name in there that’s perhaps a surprise is that of Tobias Foss. The 24 year-old Norwegian came up through the Joker and Uno X continental teams, winning the 2019 Tour de l’Avenir along the way. Jumbo Visma snapped him up and he started this Giro with a cracking third place in the Stage One time trial; and on three of the toughest stages of the race, 16, 17 and 19 has placed 10th, 11th and 9th respectively in this his second Grand Tour – he was DNF in the Giro, last year. But perhaps I shouldn’t get excited; the last Norwegian I thought was headed for better things was Carl Fredrik Hagen in the 2019 Vuelta where he finished a fine eighth for Lotto-Soudal. I tracked him down and interviewed him, but since then. . . not much. Let’s hope Foss goes on to better things.

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Tobias Foss – Surprise ‘Top-Ten?

Tomorrow? Within the 164 kilometres there are three first category climbs and a mountain top finish – Yates will surely attack again, at least second place is within his reach – but perhaps Carthy will salvage his race with a stage win? Another day to look forward to in a Giro which has been difficult to fault. . .

Stage 19

The pundits had it all figured out, Yates would go early on the first of the three Passos of the day, Bernal would burn up his gregario in pursuit, become isolated on the climb to the finish with Yates taking enough time to climb to at least second on GC, leap frogging second placed Caruso and perhaps even take pink? This of course over-looked the fact that there’s just orange juice in the bus fridges these days and the Englishman might just be wasted from his stage-winning adventures the day before?

Yates was not as sharp on stage 20

The other aspect was that Caruso had read that version of the script, didn’t fancy it and tore it up. Instead, how about jump aboard the train of one of the peloton’s most demonic descenders – Bardet – taking a dedicated team mate with him, hold off all challengers over two passos and ultimately cross the line in solitary splendour whilst behind the opposition fell like flies – with the exception of a certain skinny Colombian that is – on the tough ascent to Alpe Motta? Yes, Damiano liked that version better.

Damiano Caruso had other ideas

Sometimes Dave, Vik and I bemoan that it’s not the sport we signed up for in the 70’s – race radios, Zwift, seasons built around one race, ‘bad weather protocols,’ riders making so much money they can eschew lucrative criterium contracts. . . I could go on. Then you get a day like this and you remember why it’s still the King of Sports, for all the modern aspects which irk. If Caruso was undisputed, ‘Man of the Day,’ it would be disrespectful not to mention his team mate, Pello Bilbao of whom Caruso said; ‘70% of this win is for Pello,’ the man from the heart of the Basque Nation, Guernica assumed the role which stage-winner Caruso has adopted so many times, the selfless team mate.

Castroviejo and Martinez held it together for Bernal

And then there’s Jonathan Castroviejo and Dani Martinez the INEOS ‘super gregario’ who gave everything for their Capo Rosa on this beautiful day of racing. And yes, Egan Bernal, many thought he might crumble after his post-rest day stumble, not a bit of it; calm, collected, no panic, the man deserves every particle of praise going his way.

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Bardet and Caruso made the stage, thanks to Bilbao

But last words on Sen. Caruso; apart from his tactical shrewdness in joining Bardet there were three moments in the final which told us all we needed to know about the man – there was the pat on the back for Bilbao as the Basque exploded after having given his all, then there was the zipping up of his jersey as he approached the finish and finally the tugging straight of his jersey in the finish straight for the photographers. The consummate team mate and professional. CHAPEAU, sir!

Stage 20

Karma, it’s a funny old thing – there was Remi Cavagna heading for Deceuninck’s elusive first Giro stage win, courtesy of Filippo Ganna’s puncture. . .

I was thinking; ‘nice to see Big Remi win but such a shame for Ganna,’ at which point the Frenchman rode into the fence and hit the deck – the natural order was restored and the man on the Pinarello won his fifth straight Giro time test with Cavagna second @ 12 seconds. Vik had fancied Affini but he could only get with 13 seconds of Ganna and was one second behind Cavagna in third.

Good ride by Caruso in the final TT, but…

I fancied Bettiol, after his display on Stage 18 but it really was a percorso for the big, strong, boulevard blasters with Bettiol seventh on the day. As expected, Bernal ceded time to Caruso but not nearly enough to worry the Colombian whilst Yates had a comfortable buffer on Vlasov in fourth place. Strong rides by Almeida and Martinez – eventual sixth and fifth on final GC – meant a reshuffle lower down the standings with Bardet and Carthy the victims, dropping to seventh and eighth respectively.

Being able to raise your arms in celebration at the end of a Grand Tour is something special

Egan Bernal was a deserving winner of this Giro with Caruso and Yates worthy opponents, both taking stage wins and not content to defend their GC positions in the last week. Bernal’s INEOS team was rock solid all the way with Martinez in particular the model gregario. A terrific Giro too for Qhubeka ASSOS with three stage wins and whilst Hugh Carthy’s ride perhaps didn’t come up to expectation, with two great stage wins EF can go home happy – and good to see AG2R, Cofidis and Wanty all getting in on the act. Not forgetting EOLO Kometa who had representation in just about every break with Lorenzo Fortunato’s beautiful victory on the Zoncolan meaning there should be no problems with wild card invites.

Stage 21

Next up?
The Dauphine – but it’s not pink. . .

Giro d’Italia Final Overall Result:
1. Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) INEOS Grenadiers in 86:17:28
2. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious at 1:29
3. Simon Yates (GB) BikeExchange at 4:15
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech at 6:40
5. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) INEOS Grenadiers at 7:24
6. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) DSM at 8:05
8. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education-Nippo at 8:56
9. Tobias Foss (Nor) Jumbo-Visma at 11:44
10. Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation at 18:35
11. George Bennett (NZ) Jumbo-Visma at 25:35
12. Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 30:56
13. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 37:58
14. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ at 45:30
15. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 47:21
16. Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) eolo-Kometa at 47:31
17. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 56:32
18. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 1:03:59
19. Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech at 1:04:12
20. Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix at 1:05:19
21. Tanel Kangert (Est) BikeExchange at 1:07:25
22. Antonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar at 1:07:50
23. Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) INEOS Grenadiers at 1:18:16
24. Gianni Moscon (Ita) INEOS Grenadiers at 1:18:17
25. Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) BikeExchange at 1:20:58.

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