Egan Bernal takes firm grip of Giro d'Italia as Mauro Schmid wins Stage 11

Colombian extends lead to 45 seconds as rivals fall away

Colombian Egan Bernal took a firm grip of the Giro d'Italia on Wednesday as he extended his overall lead after Stage 11.

Team Qhubeka's Mauro Schmid won the 162km stage as part of a long range breakaway while Bernal, of Ineos Grenadiers, now holds a 45 second advantage over his rivals.

It was Schmid's first Grand Tour win after the 21-year-old pulled clear of the peloton early on and battled it out with UAE Team Emirates rider Alessandro Covi before pipping the young Italian on the line. Belgian Harm Vanhoucke finished third after the race resumed following Tuesday's rest day.

Belgian rider Remco Evenepoel came into the stage second and 14 seconds behind Bernal, but having kept pace early on he struggled and dropped off the peloton.

The day belonged to Ineos Grenadiers' Bernal, though, who pulled clear of the peloton as the stage entered Montalcin to finish 11th in the stage and end the day 45 seconds clear of Russian Aleksandr Vlasov.

The 24-year-old former mountain biker was at ease throughout the day and perfectly mastered the final 35km section of white dirt roads where so many others suffered and that also feature on the Strade Bianche one day classic.

"Today we rode well and I increased my lead in the GC [general classification] but the Giro is still long, all the big climbs are still to be ridden," said Bernal. "I'm confident but I have to keep my feet firmly on the ground."

Evenepoel fell behind a first time in the descent of the first of four dirt road sectors and was definitely trailing in the third were he clearly suffered and had to be helped by Deceuninck-Quick-Step teammate Joao Almeida.

But the 21-year-old, making his cycling comeback in the Giro after nine months out after breaking his pelvis in a crash last year, dropped from overall second to seventh at 2 min 22 sec adrift of the pink jersey. France's Romain Bardet also lost steam late on along with Italian climber Giulio Ciccone.

Schmid, who finished just 01 sec before Covi, said: "I can't believe it because I only came into the Giro team about two weeks before it started. My preparation was quite good, but I was never at the beginning of the season thinking about doing a Grand Tour.

"To be honest, in the last 10 days I suffered so much that I nearly couldn't follow sometimes. Today I knew I had to go into the break because I love Strade Bianche, I love the gravel roads. When I was in the break, I felt I had great legs. I recovered very well during the rest day.

"I knew Covi was really strong. He nearly dropped me on the climb, but I knew I had to stay in his wheel. I didn't know if the guys behind were close or far. Then I tried to not pull any more and wait for the sprint and try my best. When I saw the finish, I didn't feel my legs any more and just went for the line."

Thursday's Stage 12 is a 212km ride from Siena to Bagno di Romagna.

Published: May 19, 2021 08:55 PM

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