Damiano Caruso secured his first Grand Tour win on Stage 20 of the Giro and further secured second place standing in the GC, taking time off his rivals with only a 30km Time Trial remaining in Milan tomorrow.
The 164km stage started in Verbania, and despite 4,200m of altitude gain, it was the tactical brilliance of Caruso and Bilbao, attacking on the descent of the first climb on Passo San Bernardino, latching on to a move from Team DSM. From 50 kilometres to go, Bilbao put in an impressive effort to help Caruso distance himself from the GC rivals.
With 6km to go on the Alpe Motta ascent to the finish, Caruso gave Bilbao a pat on the back to thank him for his work and was set on his way to fight for the stage win with only Romain Bardet (Team DSM) left with him. The gap of 40 seconds began to fall on the final few kilometres to the finish after impressive riding set by Ineos Grenadiers. Still, Caruso proved too strong and rode Bardet off his wheel, taking the stage win and reducing the gap to the Maglia Rosa by 24 seconds.
Damiano Caruso was delighted to win his first Grand Tour stage: “I knew that today, for me, it would be very important to confirm the podium and try to hang on to 2nd place, but what happened was a stupendous stage. My companions and I rode in great fashion, we made the most of it, and in the final, it was magical. The move was not planned. On the descent from San Bernardino, we saw that Team DSM was increasing the pace, and I and Pello Bilbao decided to follow them because we thought getting ahead could be a good strategy. In the end, it turned out to be the winning move. Before Pello was dropped, I thanked him because he had done a fabulous job, and it was especially satisfying to be able to finish it off with the win.
I thought about a thousand things in the last meters before the finish line, all my sacrifices, my training, and all the work done by my teammates. We rode in an exemplary way today. Pello Bilbao in particular did an incredible job and he played a fundamental role in this victory. Today I realised a dream. I think I’m the happiest man in the world!
I also thought that we’re doing this in 5 riders left. Who knows what we could do with the whole team. We did a classy ride today. 70% of this win is for Pello. I never won as a ‘champion,’ but today, yes, I can say I had my day like a champ.”
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