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Bernal takes Giro d’Italia lead into final day, Caruso wins Stage 20

104th Giro d'Italia 2021 - Stage 20

VALLE SPLUGA - ALPE MOTTA, ITALY - MAY 29: Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers Pink Leader Jersey & The peloton passing through Passo San Bernardino (2065m) mountains landscape during the 104th Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 20 a 164km stage from Verbania to Valle Spluga - Alpe Motta 1727m / Colombian Fans / Snow / Alps / #UCIworldtour / @girodiitalia / #Giro / on May 29, 2021 in Valle Spluga - Alpe Motta, Italy. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

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VALLE SPLUGA-ALPE MOTTA, Italy -- Egan Bernal looks set to add the Giro d’Italia title to his Tour de France win after maintaining a significant lead at the end of the penultimate stage, which was won by Italian rider Damiano Caruso on Saturday.

It was a first-ever victory in a Grand Tour for Caruso, who also all but secured second place overall, and it came on one of the most difficult stages. Stage 20 had been given the maximum difficulty rating of five stars.

The 164-kilometer (102-mile) route from Verbania to Valle Spluga-Alpe Motta featured more than 4,200 meters of vertical gain and three top-category climbs, including the final ascent to another summit finish, where Caruso soloed to victory.

The Bahrain Victorious rider shook his head in disbelief as he rounded the final corner before zipping up his top and raising his hands across his head as he crossed the line.

“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,” Caruso said.

“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 realized a dream, I think I am the happiest man in the world!”

Bernal finished 24 seconds behind and has an overall lead of 1 minute, 59 seconds over Caruso heading into the final day’s time trial in Milan on Sunday. Bernal is 3:23 ahead of third-place Simon Yates after the expected attack from the British rider failed to materialize.

Bernal, the 2019 Tour de France winner, was helped heavily throughout the stage by Ineos Grenadiers teammate Daniel Martinez, who paced him brilliantly up the final climb and finished the stage in third, 35 seconds behind Caruso.

“Today we rode very well as a team, we controlled the race in the best possible way,” Bernal said. “My teammates did a super job ... I had good legs and I knew I had teammates around me but when Caruso attacked, with his advantage increasing, I admit I was worried.

“Now I am confident for tomorrow’s last stage, I have a two-minute lead in the GC and I will give everything in the time trial.”

The Giro finishes in familiar fashion. The individual time trial is an entirely flat, 30.3-kilometer (18.8-mile) route that ends in front of Milan’s famous cathedral.