A first participation in the Giro d’Italia, and a first victory for Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) who sealed his Maglia Rosa on Sunday to accompany the Maillot Jaune he claimed at the Tour de France in 2019. At 24 years old, the only Colombian
winner of the French Grand Tour is the second athlete from his country to ride to glory in the Corsa Rosa, seven years after Nairo Quintana did so. Bernal won the overall ahead of Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) and Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange).
“I can’t believe what’s happening, I have just won the Giro d’Italia, I really have no words,” Bernal said soon after crossing the line. “I have had two difficult years with some problems that I hope to have put behind me with this success. The Maglia Rosa is special and the Giro is the most beautiful race in the world. I have no words to describe everything I feel. In this race I found the freedom to ride as I like. I will never forget these three weeks.”
The 104th Giro d'Italia started and finished with two fast and thrilling time trials in the Northern metropolis of Italy. Wearing his rainbow jersey, Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) won both. First he flew through Turin to take the first Maglia Rosa,
just like he did in 2020, and enjoyed a few days of glory on his Piedmontese roads before hitting the first real uphill challenges on the way to Sestola (stage 4). On a climb where Giulio Ciccone revealed himself five years ago, Joe Dombrowski
(UAE Team Emirates) took his first win outside of the USA and Alessandro De Marchi (Israel Start-Up Nation) realised his dream of seizing pink a few days before turning 35 years of age.
Their successes through breakaways followed a trend initiated by Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) when he fended off the raging bunch on the way to Canale (stage 3). On the previous day, Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix)
had dominated the first mass gallop of the Giro. His fellow sprinters didn’t have many opportunities to join him in the winners’ list: Caleb Ewan powered to two victories in Cattolica (stage 5) then Termoli (stage 7), Bora-Hansgrohe
put the hammer down for Peter Sagan on the way to Foligno (stage 10) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) finally took his first Grand Tour stage victory in Verona (stage 13), after previous 16 top 3 finishes in the Giro d’Italia that
didn’t deliver a win.
Attackers were much more successful, following the examples set by the likes of Van der Hoorn, Dombrowski and De Marchi. Another member of the front group on the way to Sestola, 22-year-old Attila Valter made the most of an explosive stage towards
Ascoli Piceno to become the first Hungarian leader of a Grand Tour. On that day, another long range attacker claimed victory at the summit: the young Swiss Gino Mäder (Bahrain Victorious), avenging his leader Mikel Landa who crashed out of
the race on the previous day, and awakening the ever present memories of Gino Bartali, as he maintained a 12’’ gap to Egan Bernal on the line.
Bernal returns to the sterrato and to success
Also rising to success from the breakaway, Victor Lafay (Cofidis) followed up with his first professional victory in Guardia Sanframondi (stage 8). Mauro Schmid (stage 11) and Victor Campenaerts (stage 15) showed the whole world their “Ubuntu”
values (“I am because we are”, the motto of the Team Qhubeka Assos). Andrea Vendrame (stage 12), Lorenzo Fortunato (stage 14) and Alberto Bettiol (stage 18) pleased Italian fans and seduced cycling enthusiasts much further beyond the
Italian borders with their successful attacks. From his hometown of Pinto, some 15km south of Madrid, Alberto Contador, whose brother Fran heads Eolo-Kometa, aired his emotions on social media as Fortunato claimed glory on the Monte Zoncolan.
Over 21 stages, 13 riders took their first Grand Tour victory, but they were not all from the breakaway or through a sprint. Among them, Egan Bernal had triumphed overall in the 2019 Tour de France but he was yet to take a stage win. The Colombian
climber, who claimed two medals as a Junior in the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships before turning to the road, got back on top on the Italian “sterrato”. The Colombian took the Maglia Rosa from Valter along with the stage
victory in Campo Felice (stage 9). He went on to gain more time on all his rivals on the strade bianche leading to Montalcino (stage 11).
Bernal, who grew as a cyclist in Italy, took another stage win in Cortina d’Ampezzo (stage 16) to assert his dominance. “I really wanted to do something special with the Maglia Rosa to show I’m back,” the Colombian explained
after a solo victory capping off a gruelling day of racing in demanding weather conditions.
With five stages remaining, Egan Bernal had a 2’24’’ advantage over Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), and 3’40’’ on Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), while Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) was trailing further
behind (+4’20’’) after struggling in the cold and wet conditions. The British climber pushed back on the ascent of Sega di Ala, where Dan Martin completed his set of Grand Tour victories after previous successes on the Tour
de France and La Vuelta Ciclista a España. Yates went on to win in Alpe di Mera and made people wonder if a major coup was possible on the final weekend.
Damiano Caruso claimed a spectacular victory in Alpe Motta (stage 20) indeed, but Bernal resisted with the support of his teammates and notably Dani Martinez, 5th overall in Milan. The two Colombian friends can now celebrate their success before
they turn to new conquests.