MILAN — Colombian rider Egan Bernal appears to have finally put his back problems behind him as he added the Giro d’Italia title to his Tour de France win.
Bernal, who won the Tour in 2019, safely maintained his advantage on the final day’s time trial to Milan. As tradition dictates, he was last off the ramp, and the Ineos Grenadiers rider had an overall lead of almost two minutes.
Bernal completed the 30.3-kilometer (18.8-mile) route in 35 minutes, 41 seconds to clinch overall victory by 1:29, the most significant margin of success at the Giro since 2015. He pumped his hands above his head as he crossed the line in front of Milan’s famous cathedral.
“It’s difficult to realize what I’ve done. I have just won a Giro d’Italia. I have no words after what happened in these two years,” said the 24-year-old Bernal, who has struggled with a lingering back injury that forced him to abandon last year’s Tour.
Damiano Caruso was second overall, with Simon Yates completing the podium. Yates finished 4:15 behind Bernal.
Since claiming it, Bernal had worn the leader’s pink jersey by winning the ninth stage with an attack on the summit finish. And, along with his team, he brilliantly defended it along the rest of the route to Milan, where he lifted the impressive Trofeo Senza Fine (never-ending trophy).
“Yes, finally, this is my second Grand Tour (win),” Bernal said. “I think at this moment I look calm, but inside I am exploding with happiness. I’ve already won the Tour and now the Giro.
“It is my first Giro, and it was exceptional, the way we rode, the way I returned to being a player after nearly two years without good form in a Grand Tour. So, I think it’s special.”
There were hundreds of fans in Milan’s Piazza Duomo celebrating Bernal’s victory, many waving Colombia flags and wearing shirts of the country’s soccer team.
Bernal’s teammate, Filippo Ganna, won the individual time trial despite a late puncture after the Italian’s closest rival, Remi Cavagna, crashed with about 600 meters to go.
“When I see the puncture, I think, ‘Ah, today unlucky, I lose the race’,” Ganna said. “I changed the bike really well, really fast, like a Formula One race, and then when I crossed the line, I think, `OK, now will win Cavagna,’ because he’s an excellent rider, perfect time trial.
“In the end, when I see his crash, I think, `OK, we have played with the same cards, I puncture and he’s crashed,’ and the result I think is the same without my puncture and without his crash.”
Ganna was the favorite to triumph on the 21st and final stage. He won the opening time trial in Turin and all three-time trials in last year’s Giro, as well as another location.
Ganna took the lead with a time of 33:48, but his chances of winning seemed precarious as he lost about 20 seconds when he was forced to change bikes after the puncture.
Cavagna looked set to beat his time, but the French time trial champion appeared to lock up his brakes at a corner and flipped over his bicycle as Ganna watched from the leader’s hot seat.
Cavagna got up unhurt and finished second, 12 seconds behind Ganna.
Edoardo Affini was third, a second further back.
“As a team, we brought home a beautiful result,” Ganna said. “Egan Bernal did something extraordinary that has been built over these last three weeks.
“We worked hard to keep Egan always at the front of the peloton … And to arrive today with the pink jersey and celebrate tonight all together, I think is a dream of every team.”
Egan Bernal adds Giro d’Italia title to Tour de France win originally appeared on NBCSports.com