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Giro d’Italia Stage 20 Preview

The last roll of the dice, a big stage in the Alps awaits. Can Simon Yates attack, and if so where?

Monte Rosa: for once the breakaway didn’t stand a chance as Bike Exchange, Deceuninck-Quickstep and Ineos set a fast pace. The Belgian team kept going into the climb with James “Forte” Knox taking a long pull to launch João Almeida at the foot of the climb. Then Simon Yates went and Egan Bernal didn’t, a tale of two styles with Yates standing on the pedals a lot and attacking the hairpins while Bernal was smooth but slower. Perhaps the significance here was Yates in a long range move, he attacked as soon as the climb got steep. He wasn’t out to snipe the stage win but to build up as big a lead as possible by the top. He extracted 28 seconds by the finish, plus a 6 second net time bonus. Which is good, the glass half-full view is he’s got a stage win, taken time and looks good for the podium as he’s consistent; the glass half-empty view is that at this rate he needs five more summit finishes. We should note Almeida’s ride too, strong in last year’s Giro as in punchy but here he’s climbing better than Egan Bernal and is younger too. Otherwise there was no change in the top-10 in terms of positions, only Yates taking time on Caruso and closing in on second overall.

The Route: a start in Verbania, Filippo Ganna’s home town, and then a trip alongside the swanky shores of the Lago di Maggiore and across the border into Switzerland for the Passo San Bernardino (not the same St Bernard pass used by the Tour de France, nor the eponymous dogs). It’s a hard climb, 23km long and if it averages just 6.2%, that’s because it’s got two descents along the way, meaning 20km of the climb is 7-8% and so a selective climb that will eject many riders. The descent is different, it’s short and packed with hairpins, but all on Swiss-quality tarmac.

The Splügenpass is 9km at 7.3% and climbed from the shorter side, it’s steep from the start. Towards the top there’s a series of tight hairpins, the kind where a rider in the lead can look down to see where their rivals are. Then comes a very fast and technical descent on a road that’s full of engineering features with cuttings and tunnels. It’s almost so fast the race overshoots the town of Madesimo, going further down the valley a bit before turning back, in order to make the final climb of the Giro that bit harder…

The Finish: 7.3km, 7.6% but a finish of two parts, first a regular road to the ski village of Madesimo and a flat section through town. Then, of all the roads in Italy, a small rickety lane out of the village up to the ski lift, it’s an irregular and steep, a tiny road.

The Contenders: Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) is now climbing faster than Egan Bernal (Ineos) but the differences are close. The Briton could attack on the Splügenpass and try to build a lead but this is risky with Ineos having strength in numbers, especially Dani Martinez to chase. It’s also a longer stage – in duration rather than distance – with multiple climbs rather than the short punch so advantage Bernal here. Arguably Bernal’s biggest threat is Damiano Caruso, at least in terms of the TT as the Sicilian should be quicker tomorrow.

Simon Yates, Egan Bernal
João Almeida
Bauke Mollema

Weather: a weather alert, it’ll be bright and sunny again which unusual for the Giro. 18°C lower down, 12°C higher up.

TV: the stage start is at 12.30pm, the San Bernardino starts about two hours later. Tune in for the Splügen at 3.50pm and finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Prof Reeder Saturday, 29 May 2021, 6:52 am


    “The finish” section. Incomplete last line and “ski left” rather than “ski lift”.

    Thank you!

  • Somers Saturday, 29 May 2021, 7:31 am

    At the risk of stating the obvious, Yates’ problem is not having a strong team which can drive the pace on the first two climbs. It looks like the only likely ally BE will have is Quickstep, Caruso is playing it safe and I’m sure the other teams (EF, Astana DSM) don’t want a repeat of the embarrassment of pushing hard on the climbs just for their GC leader to be dropped.

    • DJW Saturday, 29 May 2021, 8:17 am

      Yates, and the others, can’t give it all today and be empty for the TT tomorrow. That will be easier for Bernal who can defend than for the rest who need to attack – or will many settle for what they have?

      • HBC Saturday, 29 May 2021, 11:45 am

        I think they’ll take that risk if they have too. Tomorrow is tomorrow and my guess is if it’s on the card they’ll empty themselves today for the win.

  • mendip5000 Saturday, 29 May 2021, 8:06 am

    I’m not banking on a 2018 Froome style story from our Swiss trip today. Not likely to be one for the vaults, but the exact timing of Yates attack will be crucial…

    (I’ll get my coat…)

    • Bern Saturday, 29 May 2021, 12:14 pm

      So, like Sean, you think it’s going to be an interesting one…?

  • Cinjet Saturday, 29 May 2021, 8:08 am

    Good to see Mollema with one chainring. His last chance for stage win this year and completing his set of GT stage wins.

  • jc Saturday, 29 May 2021, 8:32 am

    Interesting rides yesterday open to a variety of interpretations, maybe Egan Bernal’s back is playing up and Simon Yates can take advantage or maybe Egan Bernal is playing the numbers game, he knows he has a good lead and needs to keep energy reserves for the TT on Sunday. I see Sunday as Simon Yates’ biggest problem, go too deep today and he could lose lots of time on Sunday which might even be a chance for Damiano Caruso.

    Whilst today doesnt reach the heights of the Stelvio, Agnello, Galabier etc the passes are still over 2000m so altitude will be a factor. The San Bernadino is long, I have driven it a few times (guess I would manage 500m on a bike!) on the main road rather than the old one the race will use. Some impressive views down the valley which just emphasises the length of the climb. In days of yore Sky would have set a high tempo to leave a very select group at the top, cant see any team having that sort of climbing strength here, so likely to be a steady pace. How many team mates make it to the top with the GC contenders is probably key even so cant see how the “bunch” will consist of more than the top 10, if that, by the time they top out on the Splügenpass.

    I think Egan Bernal will come in with a lead of around 1:30 on his competitors, enough to see him home on Sunday.

  • DJW Saturday, 29 May 2021, 8:33 am

    Nice to see Mark Christian, who has been knocking round the UK domestic scene for years, quietly having a decent Giro getting in the breaks an climbing solidly.

  • Stuart Saturday, 29 May 2021, 8:52 am

    I hope Yates goes for it on San Bernadino, and I think he will. It would, at the very least, whittle Ineos down to Martinez. Almeida will follow Yates because he’s desperate for a stage win, and so we get all the GC guys fighting to keep their position in the top 10.
    Bernal looked well within himself yesterday, but he’s certainly on the way down. Whether that’s fatigue or form who knows.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 29 May 2021, 8:53 am

      *fatigue or back problems that should say.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 29 May 2021, 9:20 am

      All I saw was a rider who finished third, without problems, who just kept calm when Yates attacked with a long way to go and lost just 35s of his very comfortable lead.
      Why should he jump to Yates as long as he has still two riders of his team in front doing all the work. He acted just smart, not fatigue.

      • Brent Sword Saturday, 29 May 2021, 10:10 am

        It was both.
        Smart and fatigue. Not not as bad as 2 days previously but still there. He absolutely would have got the team to set a better pace to follow Caruso if ineous were not absolutely under instruction to make it as easy as possible. It could all turn around today as those who dug deap the last few days could fall away. Caruso is regarded as the better time trialer so ineous would take extra time on caruso if they could at all.
        Egan has gone from following all with ease and sprinting away to depending to some degree on teammates to set an easy pace. He certainly would have followed Almeida if he could at the end. Without martinez over the days 2 he would have lost more time.

      • Nick Saturday, 29 May 2021, 12:01 pm

        If that were accurate, Bernal wouldn’t have dropped so far off Almeida in the final 600m yesterday… Today will be captivating

    • KevinR Saturday, 29 May 2021, 10:05 am

      The earlier that Yates goes, the more problems he will have actually getting away. Ineos have enough powerful riders to – think Castroviejo and Moscon – to shut that down. But at the same time, Yates has to go early because there’s no way he’ll find anywhere near enough time on the final climb. But that then opens the possibility of him blowing up in the TT when he’s already not particularly good at the discipline. That all adds up to Yates going for second place while hoping that Bernal falters badly today.

  • StevhanTI Saturday, 29 May 2021, 9:04 am

    Can’t help but being amazed by Ineos they’ve lost Sivakov but are still bossing this race on all terrain and both on the attack and on the defense. An old fashioned handshake deal between New and Dqt looks likely for today no?

    • Richard S Saturday, 29 May 2021, 11:57 am

      Amazed, or bored after watching essentially the same thing for nearly 10 years?

  • Anonymous Saturday, 29 May 2021, 9:25 am

    Felt like yesterday didn’t answer any GC questions which was frustrating. Bernal was clearly digging deep in the last few 100 metres but he’s managing things… he’s weakening but the elastic between him and Yates never completely snaps. Maybe if today’s stage had a climb from the gun to shed superfluous teammates it’d present more possibilities, but as it is if Bernal loses pink it’ll be because he implodes not because of an ambush.

    • KevinR Saturday, 29 May 2021, 10:10 am

      +1 Can’t see Yates winning the Maglia Rosa by attacking, only through the wheels totally coming off for Bernal (like they did for Yates himself in 2918).

      • KevinR Saturday, 29 May 2021, 10:11 am

        * 2018

  • Iain Hamilton Saturday, 29 May 2021, 9:54 am

    What has happened to young Egan? The joie de vie riding he treated us to appears to have withdrawn itself this final week. He looks wan. Tight. Is the Nairomask expression concealing back pain or did his form merely plummet following the rest day? Will Yates dare to disturb the universe and go for it today? We are in for a treat!

    • Ecky Thump Saturday, 29 May 2021, 11:00 am

      Surely the influence of Brailsford et al, we’ve seen it many times before?
      They’re the masters of bringing it home, the kings of pragmatism.
      I must say, if Bernal is having problems with his back, he’s hiding it extremely well.
      For, whilst Almeida yesterday resembled a figure in an Edvard Munch painting, Bernal was the duke of cool and inscrutability.

  • Brent Sword Saturday, 29 May 2021, 10:16 am

    I do give a really strong breakaway some chance here. Ineous don’t won’t to lose any energy chasing and Bike exchange and DQ need to save there efforts for when it counts after the 80 km mark. So if some really strong climbers like martin can get in the breakaway get over the first climb and sit on if some bridges across from GC or make a on the road deal. Or there may be a GC stalemate until the 2nd climb. Strong breakaway can do it even if it will be hard.

    Will almeida and yates pay for there efforts or will bernal be the one who drifts away. Yates best strategy would be to get away with almeida and maybe someone else as early as possible and force ineous to commit everything.

  • Ecky Thump Saturday, 29 May 2021, 10:39 am

    The San Bernardino Pass marks a border of the Italo-German language barriers.
    But also, subjectively perhaps, of where cool music meets the yodel and Alphorn 😃
    However all is not lost, you may be pleased to know, for the humble cowbell played a starring and starting role for one of the very coolest bands to have ever graced this earth –

  • plurien Saturday, 29 May 2021, 10:58 am

    Today will see a brief and necessary reversion by Skineos to the tested method of going to the front and daring anyone to attack. What other team has the depth to take them on, what small coterie of climbers could resist them just coming back on the descents?
    Only a plunging attack by Nibali could gain on the tactic, and with Moscon having been bitten by the shark, Skineos may have to let him and some others go. – Who among the GC contenders will go with him? Could there be another Italian Alliance to bring Caruso out of his comfort zone and on to the attack?

  • Louis le Blanc Saturday, 29 May 2021, 11:36 am

    Arly played it smooth yesterday – today he’ll “play it again, Sam”. And tomorrow he’ll emty the bag…..and win the Giro….simple as that 🙂

  • Richard S Saturday, 29 May 2021, 12:02 pm

    Yates’ best chance is to go early but of course Skyneos won’t let him. Moscon and Robo-viejo will ride such a high pace that either an attack will be impossible or will achieve about a 5 second lead before being reeled in. So his only real chance is if Bernal has such a jour sans he ‘does a Yates’. Yesterday could’ve been interesting but of course Ineos were there mob handed to stop that happening.

  • Dave C Saturday, 29 May 2021, 12:13 pm

    A great effort from Yates but not enough of the Giro left for him to actually win it , barring some sort of collapse from Bernal today . I’ve nothing against Bernal but seeing him show a bit of weakness has actually made the race a lot more interesting .

  • FrankE Saturday, 29 May 2021, 12:55 pm

    I’m interested in how Caruso might/will handle an early Yates attack. Does he risk losing 2nd? Can he follow and not have Egan for company? If he manages to get away, which I doubt, that would pile the pressure on Ineos.

  • Tomski Saturday, 29 May 2021, 1:20 pm

    I think Egan is in trouble. Whether fatigue or back related, he and Martinez shared a grimace when warming down as though worried they haven’t built up enough of a cushion. The Bernal of a week ago would have been able to go with the rest of the GC contenders when they broke away together chasing Yates. Having watched him smoke the rest of the field in the last couple of weeks, I’m not sure fatigue alone is a reason for such a drop in form. I reckon its going to come right down to the wire tomorrow.

  • Ralph Saturday, 29 May 2021, 2:53 pm

    I hope you understand that ‘Yates’ isn’t even racing. He is cruising, as all good protestants do. He is having the ‘time of his life’…not sure what that is in Latin.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 29 May 2021, 3:38 pm

      Well he certainly floats like jennifer grey in dirty dancing.

    • Bikeranter Saturday, 29 May 2021, 5:55 pm

      Ralph – you have nailed it – RESPECT !

  • Steve Saturday, 29 May 2021, 3:43 pm

    Yates’s best chance is to ride alongside Bernal and tell him the story of a young rider who looked set to win the Giro, yet lost everything in one bad day. FOR HE WAS THAT RIDER!

  • Ralph Saturday, 29 May 2021, 3:49 pm

    Sometimes, when you are a long way away from home, you start to miss your mama…

  • Gelato4bahamontes Saturday, 29 May 2021, 5:41 pm

    Caruso.. Bloody hell

    • hoh Saturday, 29 May 2021, 6:09 pm

      All the sweeter with so many writes him off.

  • RQS Saturday, 29 May 2021, 9:12 pm

    Must admit that I felt a Yates tilt at the Maglia Rosa in the last three stages were a bit far fetched. Especially with a TT to come.
    Yates had so much time to gain. It’s not like Bernal faded like he did in the Tour, and he was never isolated.
    I think the plan was probably to hit the podium and see what else could be achieved in the process.
    I feel sorry for Bardet, but chapeau to Caruso who used his GC rival effectively to get a deserved win. No one would’ve fancied him for second, and now he’s capped it off with a win.

  • hoh Saturday, 29 May 2021, 11:36 pm

    Martinez would probably get into top 5 given he is about just 10 secs off Bardet. Info’s is strong.

    • cp Sunday, 30 May 2021, 2:43 am


      Imagine, if Bernal had been working for Martinez he’d probably have won the whole thing. Turns himself inside out today for Bernal and takes 3rd–after serving his leader for 19 stages. They should let him lead the Vuelta out of gratitude. Screw the watch.

    • The GCW / Strictly Amateur Sunday, 30 May 2021, 3:39 am

      Re: Daniel Felipe Martinez, and if Bernal was supporting him…

      What if Martinez was still with EF Ed? Wished He remained. -Matterless what if’s. However, it’s part of the Sky-way.

  • gabriele Sunday, 30 May 2021, 12:31 am

    Last Monday was simply not fair in sporting terms. Paradoxically (or not), GC wouldn’t have changed much, maybe just Bardet having a more decent chance to grab a final top 5 or even dream of a podium spot, or Yates cracking (which would have been a pity for the subsequent show). Anyway, what’s sure is that, as partially seen today, the sport shows quite a different facet under some circumstances (several climbs in a row, altitude, notable total altitude gain…), whose relevance was instead tilted down within the competition as a whole.

    • STS Sunday, 30 May 2021, 1:45 am


      wasn’t the main difference yesterday that Team DSM had come up with a plan for an early attack with Bardet which was probably based upon the notion that this was their last chance to come up with a stage win, and that they had nothing to lose? Especially when compared to last year’s Giro when they were much more prominent.

      If DSM had not attacked right after cresting the Bernardino, Caruso hadn’t countered with Bilbao, and we would have seen the usual procedure on the last climb. Maybe with a different winner as there are notable differences as to how the GC contenders in this Giro have dealt with the changing weather conditions.

      IMHO it was a shame that DSM had not one or two guys in the early break and Bahrain Victorious hadn’t ordered Tratnik to go into that break. With two more engines pulling in those not too steep descents they would probably have brought Ineos over the limit of their controlling capacities.

      • Anonymous Sunday, 30 May 2021, 3:09 am

        “IMHO it was a shame that DSM had not one or two guys in the early break”

        Only that Nico Denz was in the early break…

        • STS Sunday, 30 May 2021, 1:25 pm

          yeah, sure, but not anymore when it really mattered.

      • gabriele Sunday, 30 May 2021, 10:02 am

        Possible dynamics of early break depend on course. Going away on the flat is a way different battle than on early climbs. Then, much depends also on the terrain you further face. And, in any case, without serious series of close climbs, or rough terrain at least, it’s hard to envision well-concerted attacks from far and a proper fondo challenge.

  • plurien Sunday, 30 May 2021, 12:12 pm

    Got to love the view of those who think it’s like playing chess to move your pieces on the board, where you want to get a rider in the break and control the leading teams.