Egan Bernal admits that Simon Yates is the man in form as he hopes to hold onto his lead in the closing stages of the Giro d’Italia.
Bernal has looked vulnerable in recent days after surging attacks from Yates have whittled down the Colombian’s lead in the General Classification.
Bernal is currently 2:29 seconds clear of Bahrain Victorious’ Damiano Caruso, while Yates is 20 seconds behind in third position.
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Speaking after Friday’s stage Bernal conceded he was now racing a defensive finish to the Giro.
"When I need to go from a long way out and when I have the legs, I try to do it. But in this moment, I know there's a rider who is stronger than me, and that's Yates," Bernal said.
"Now I have to manage the advantage that I built up by attacking earlier on. There's the work of a whole team behind this jersey, and I don't want to do something wrong and lose it. I want to ride with my head to try to bring this jersey to Milan.
"It's difficult when they attack and straightaway they take 10, 20, 30 seconds in a short space of time. But I wasn't going slowly, and I knew they had to have sore legs in front and they would have to recover a bit."
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Bernal explained that he would be taking a conservative approach ahead of the final time trial in order to maintain the energy to attack on the day.
"I did drop off a bit at the end, it was a very fast climb," he said.#
"Maybe I could have done it 5 to 10 seconds quicker, but that effort might have put me into difficulty when I didn't need to do it. In the end, I preferred not to go flat out in the last few hundred metres, because I know I have a nice advantage, and I want to come to the final time trial with some strength left. That will be a head-to-head battle, alone against the wind."
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