- Caruso wins biggest race of his career to all but seal second
- Bernal on verge of winning Giro d’Italia
- Yates on course to finish third in Milan
S imon Yates said he gave everything but "did not have the legs" to put further time into Egan Bernal on the penultimate stage of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday as the Colombian moved to within one stage of victory.
All eyes were on the enthralling duel which had developed over the course of the final week between the British rider from BikeExchange and Ineos Grenadiers' 2019 Tour de France champion. Yates had gapped Bernal on stage 17 on Wednesday, before riding away from him again on Friday to win stage 19 solo. And there were question marks over Bernal's longstanding back injury.
But having begun on Saturday – the final mountain stage of the race – looking to make inroads into a deficit which stood at 2min 49sec, Yates hit a brick wall.
“We tried to do something again, the boys did a fantastic job again, as always," the 28-year-old said afterwards. "The plan was to try something on the second to last climb, but we arrived there and I didn't have the legs. A bit of fatigue from yesterday maybe. A bit of fatigue from three weeks all coming together.
"But as always, I did the best I could and I'm happy with what I did and we finish off with the TT [time trial] tomorrow.”
Yates ended up finishing sixth on the stage, 51 seconds behind stage winner Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious), who consolidated second place in the general classification, and 27 seconds behind Bernal, who was second over the line after excellent work from Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Dani Martínez who stayed with him until the final kilometres.
“My team-mates did a great job and managed things perfectly, I have to thank them," admitted Bernal, who will take a 1min 59sec advantage over Caruso into Sunday's 30km time trial in Milan.
“I was scared of losing. I’m full of different emotions. I had the legs and the team in place but there was Caruso up front who was a GC [general classification] rival.
“When he got 30 or 40 seconds in front, even if I felt good, I was worried I could suffer. It was easy to lose 1:30 and then have to fight in the final time trial.”
Yates sits third overall at 3min 23sec heading into the final day, a podium finish almost a formality thanks to his near four-minute advantage over fourth-placed Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech). "We're staying focused," Yates said. "It's only one more day and then we can celebrate a nice podium in Milan."
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