What happens on the Passo Giau stays on the Passo Giau. Not because Egan Bernal misbehaved, Vegas-style, as he ascended into the thin Dolomite air, but because the 4G signal dropped out and TV pictures disappeared. Though to be honest, if he was drinking, gambling, and flirting with strippers we’d have been none the wiser.
What happened up there is lost in the swirl of time; pending social media snippets from whichever brave souls witnessed events.
What we do know is this: with thirty kilometres of the stage remining, at the base of the Giau, Hugh Carthy put his EF Education Nippo team to work. The big Preston lad clearly feeling good. The group of main contenders thinned quickly.Embed from Getty Images
With twenty-two kilometres to go race leader Egan Bernal attacked Carthy, dropped everyone, and set off in search of the highest point of this year’s Giro. The summit lay six kilometres up the road through the cold and the rain. Whether he felt amazing, or just wanted to warm himself up, his move was blistering.
There would be snow up there, and Bernal was intent on seeing it first.
From there, the line went dead.
The same appalling weather that shortened this, the Queen Stage, from three epic summits to one, also grounded the aeroplane responsible for transmitting the TV signal. Once 4G wore off we were left watching static footage of the finish line and time gaps of dubious provenance in the top left of our screen.
We could only imagine what jeopardy was afoot.
We watched the numbers tick down to tell us that Damiano Caruso and French sylph Romain Bardet were chipping away at Bernal’s lead on the sixteen-kilometre descent into Cortina. Following them, the ‘Yates group’ became the ‘Ciccone group’ became the ‘Carthy group’. We couldn’t be sure what this meant.
Our televised view of the finish line evoked an actual, in-person bike race; where the parade of motos and sundry vehicles, and an ad-libbing commentator, are the only clues as to who is about to whoosh into view around the corner and when.
Bernal appeared, looking less-harrowed than one might expect considering he’d just been up to 2,200 metres of altitude in the cold, rain and snow. He even took time to calmly remove his rain jacket to display that lovely Pink Jersey for the cameras.
I suppose taking another chunk of time from your rivals and another step closer to winning a Giro d’Italia is liable to leave you with a warm glow even on a day like this.
From there came Bardet and Caruso, the other big winners of the day, moving up to seventh and second overall. Carthy, among the best of the rest, is now in third. Yates, Vlasov and Ciccone come next. Remco Evenepoel, the young Belgian hope, shipped twenty-odd minutes and will file this Giro under ‘experience.’
Back on Stage 9 Egan Bernal won spectacularly on the gravel-strewn summit of Campo Felice. Today he attacked solo, from twenty-two kilometres out, over the highest point of the race and through treacherous, terrible conditions, and won again. In between he bossed the Tuscan gravel on the roads to Montalcino and has revealed nothing even close to a chink in his armour.
He has proved himself the complete rider in the most extreme conditions dished out in this race. He’s definitely, to this point, the strongest. And he’s ridden with a flair and verve that was missing from his 2019 Tour de France win.
If he wins this Giro, and it’s hard to imagine any other outcome, Bernal will be defined; not as the clinical, controlling presence at the head of the Ineos train, but as the total champion we always suspected he might be.