Damiano Caruso shines atop Alpe Motta

At the last mountaintop finish of this year’s Giro d’Italia, Damiano Caruso topped off a cunning strategy of Team Bahrain Victorious, winning the stage solo atop Alpe Motta. Thanks to this win the rider from Sicily should be holding onto the 2nd spot in the overall standings in tomorrow’s conclusive time trial in Milano.

Seeing Damiano Caruso spending the second rest day of the Giro d’Italia in 2nd place of the overall standings came entirely unexpected. Not the least to himself as the experienced Sicilian had lined up to this Grand Tour to help Mikel Landa win the race. Unfortunately the latter was forced out of the race due to injuries after crashing late in the fifth stage. But rather than to dwell in misery Team Bahrain Victorious decided to smile in the face of adversity, and Caruso in particular grew into his unexpected role as team captain in the following two weeks, getting better than many had expected. In the stages after the second rest day, he showed that he did not get that podium position at a Grand Tour by chance. And he also proved all those wrong who complained that he was racing way too defensively rather than attacking at every chance.

The penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia headed over the San Bernardino and Spluga passes up to Alpe Motta. At first Team Bahrain Victorious chose to stay in the background, fully focussing on keeping its captain safe and out of the wind. When three riders of Team DSM attacked on the descent from the San Bernardino, Pello Bilbao set off in pursuit of this trio with Damiano Caruso on his wheel. The two managed to close the gap before the descent was over, and this attack delivered a gap of 40 seconds to all other overall contenders except for Romain Bardet. This gap remained more or less the same over the Spluga and to the foot of the final climb to Alpe Motta. On this very climb Pello Bilbao turned himself inside out for his captain, sending Damiano Caruso onto the last six kilometers with just Romain Bardet as his company.

With two kilometers to go the duo had a gap of 18 seconds left to the maglia rosa group. In that group some of Caruso’s closest rivals could not keep up with the pace set by the Ineos Grenadiers. For that reason there were no attacks coming from this high-profile group. Damiano Caruso left his last companion behind under the 2 kilometers to go banner and managed to extend his lead on the way to the finish ever so slightly. Thanks to this effort he got to celebrate the greatest win of his long career atop Alpe Motta, and at the same time he solidified his 2nd place in the overall standings.

Just 24 hours earlier things had been looking a lot less rosy: When Simon Yates attacked on the final ascent to Alpe di Mera, Damiano Caruso like all other overall contenders could not respond. While he still crossed the finish line in 4th, he conceded 32 seconds to the British rider who also got ten seconds bonification for the stage win. Thus Caruso’s margin to his closest chaser in the overall standings had come down to a scant 20 seconds. Two days earlier, Yates had accelerated in the final ascent as well, putting 50 seconds into Caruso ho finished that stage in 5th place.

1. Damiano Caruso, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 4:27.53 hours
2. Egan Bernal, COL, + 0.24
3. Daniel Martinez, COL, + 0.35

1. Egan Bernal, COL, in 85:41.47 hours
2. Damiano Caruso, ITA/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 1.59
3. Simon Yates, GBR, + 3.23