Cometh the hour – and cometh the gravel – cometh the man. The time gaps were not large, but the gulf in class was huge. On Sunday’s ninth leg of this intriguing 104th edition of the Giro d’Italia, Egan Bernal came of age – in as far as a Tour de France winner still has leeway in the coming-of-age stakes – with a swashbuckling stage victory, his first in Grand Tours, at Campo Felice.
Always ones for a bit of innovation, the Giro organisers went off-piste with an on-piste finale to what was a compelling, never-a-dull-moment schlep through the desolate Abruzzo: a new uphill gravel finish at the Apennines ski resort above Rocca di Cambio. Known as the Pista dello Scorpione, the ski lift service road hit double-digit gradients and, with the rain falling onto the dirt sterrato track, it certainly proved a sting in the tail of the 158km stage.
Over a ski slope covered in snow just weeks earlier, Bernal darted from the wheel of marauding teammate Gianni Moscon inside the final kilometre of a frenetic stage through southern central Italy, which featured seven climbs, a total of 3,400 metres of climbing, and not a metre of flat.
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‘Egan Bernal is blowing up the Giro d’Italia’ – Ineos star soars to Stage 9 win

Bernal blasted past the last two remaining escapees – Koen Bouwman and Geoffrey Bouchard – with such venom that he forced the Dutchman to flinch so much that he changed his line and almost rode into his French companion. Before then, that leading duo had been part of a 17-man move which had finally emerged from the peloton following a fast and furious opening two hours of racing.
The 2019 Tour de France winner crossed the line seven seconds clear of Italy’s Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech), with Belgian debutant Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck Quick-Step) and Ireland’s Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) completing the top five a few seconds further back.
With overnight race leader Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) struggling to keep on the back of a slimming group of favourites on the final climb to come home almost one minute down, 24-year-old Bernal took over the maglia rosa. He now holds a 15-second lead over Evenepoel, with Vlasov in third at 21 seconds. Ciccone rises to fourth place ahead of the Hungarian Valter – but there is still only 1’01” separating Bernal in pink and the tenth-place Davide Formolo of UAE Team Emirates.
Despite coming to within a few hundred metres of competing for glory, Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) and Bouchard (Ag2R-La Mondiale) ended up in 15th place and 22nd place respectively. But it was not a wasted day for the Frenchman Bouchard, who pocketed maximum points over two of three categorised climbs to take over the blue jersey from the Swiss Stage 6 winner Gino Mader – albeit with only a slender three-point lead over Bernal.
Both Bouchard and Mader of Bahrain-Victorious had been very much to the fore earlier in the stage after numerous attempts to form the day’s break were thwarted by a rampaging peloton. Mader seemed to have taken the early initiative when taking maximum points over the Passo Godi before being joined by teammates Damiano Caruso and Matej Mohoric, after the former darted clear of the pack in pursuit of a large faction of riders near the summit.
But Bahrain-Victorious’ world came crashing down just moments later when Mohoric – riding in second wheel behind Mader on the descent – crashed terribly on the descent. The Slovenian skidded before catching his front wheel in a pot-hole, the impact sending him head over heals and snapping his bike in two as Caruso expertly avoided his sprawling body.

‘Awful crash’ – Mohoric taken to hospital after bike snaps in two

While he was up and back on his feet quickly, Mohoric was stopped from getting back on a replacement bike and taken to hospital on a stretcher with his neck in a brace as per the sport’s concussion protocol. It was a cruel blow for Bahrain-Victorious, with Mohoric having been so integral to Mader's victory the day after their leader Mikel Landa crashed out earlier in the race.
Alert to the danger posed by Caruso – just 39 seconds down in the standings and in sixth position entering the stage – the peloton chased down the move and the counter was reset to zero once again. And when a new break finally formed – and then stuck – Bouchard was at the centre of operations once again.
The initial 14-man move was made up of Tony Gallopin and Bouchard (both Ag2R-Citroen), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana-Premier Tech), Filippo Zana (Bardiani-CSF), Matteo Fabbro (Bora-Hansgrohe), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Simon Carr and Ruben Guerreiro (both EF Education-Nippo), George Bennett and Keon Bouwman (both Jumbo-Visma), Tanel Kangert (Team BikeExchange), Michael Storer (Team DSM), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates).
Einer Rubio of Movistar has managed to bridge before Giovanni Visconti (Bardiani-CSF) then Eduardo Sepulveda (Androni Giacattoli) also joined the party before the Groupama-FDJ team of pink jersey Valter came to the front and finally put a lid on the breakaway jack-in-the-box with 85km remaining.

Bernal: 'Even I can’t believe what is happening'

The gap grew to three minutes where it remained as Bouchard picked up maximum points going over the Cat.3 Forca Caruso and Cat.3 Ovindoli climbs. With storm clouds looming on the horizon alongside that novel gravel finale, Ineos Grenadiers took up the chase behind – effectively sounding the death-knell to the break.
Bouchard joined Carr in the lead after the British rider had jumped following an earlier acceleration from his teammate Guerreiro – winner in the Appenines in Stage 9 in last year’s Giro. Bouwman, Mollema and Storer combined behind as the other escapees tailed off on the approach to the ski resort of Rocca di Cambio.
King of the mountains in his debut Vuelta in 2019, Bouchard clearly had similar designs for his debut Giro – and the Frenchman dropped Carr on the second intermediate sprint ahead of the final climb with perhaps a stage win as a bonus to his blue jersey aspirations. He held a 20-second gap on the chasers at the start of the final 6km climb with Ineos reducing the peloton’s deficit to 1’40” as Valter began to feel the pinch on the back.
Emerging from a long tunnel ahead of the final dirt-road climb, Bouchard held a slender gap over Bouwman with the pack now just 30 second in arrears. The two riders came together on the gravel climb but they were a sorry sight compared to the Ineos duo of Moscon and Bernal behind, the Italian burying himself for the cause before the Colombian kicked clear inside the final kilometre to sweep past the leaders and shed his GC rivals in his wake.

Egan Bernal | Giro d'Italia

Image credit: Getty Images

It was Bernal’s first ever stage win on a Grand Tour, the then 22-year-old having secured his Tour de France victory in the weather-aborted Stage 19 of the 2019 Tour when riding clear with Simon Yates on the Col d’Iseran. Yates (Team BikeExchange) finished in a group alongside fellow Briton Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) to limit his losses to 12 seconds (plus 10 bonus seconds) on Sunday as Bernal graduated from yellow to pink.
The Giro continues on Monday with the shortest stage of the race – a 139km ride from L’Aquila to Foligno which should re-open the doors to the sprinters ahead of Tuesday’s much-needed first rest day.

Stage 9 results

  • 1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 4:08:23
  • 2. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo +7
  • 3. Alexandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech
  • 4. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep +10
  • 5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation
  • 6. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious +12
  • 7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM
  • 8. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team
  • 9. Daniel Martinez Poveda (Col) Ineos Grenadiers
  • 10. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep

General Classification

  • 1. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 35:19:22
  • 2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep +15
  • 3. Alexandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech +21
  • 4. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo +36
  • 5. Attila Valter (Hun) Groupama-FDJ +43
  • 6. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education-Nippo +44
  • 7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious +45
  • 8. Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation +51
  • 9. Simon Yates (GB) Team BikeExchange +55
  • 10. Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates +1:01
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