Giro d'Italia 2021: Stage 21 Preview - Against the clock

Rouleur previews stage 21 of the 2021 Giro d’Italia. This is it. The final time trial in Milan will decide who claims the maglia rosa.

Stage 21 of the Giro d’Italia 2021 will conclude the battle for the maglia rosa. Egan Bernal still holds the jersey and looks primed to win the Giro at his first attempt.

Damiano Caruso stole the headlines on stage 20 with a spectacular ride. Bahrain-Victorious and Team DSM pressed on after cresting the Passo San Bernardino, with team captains Romain Bardet and Damiano Caruso in the wheel. Caruso dropped Bardet on the Alpe Motta and held off the chasing Bernal to win his first Grand Tour stage.

Bernal limited the damage well and now leads Caruso by two minutes, whilst Simon Yates drops time and is now over three minutes behind.

Route

Giro d'Italia 2021 Stage 21 MilanStage 21 profile

Plenty of time can still be won and lost over the 30 kilometres of time trialling that remain. The riders depart from Senago, a commune in Northern Milan, and head to the centre of the city aside the Milan Cathedral.

With just 24 metres of climbing, this is a time trial for the pure powerhouses. There are two time checks, first at kilometre 9.2 and then 19.7 kilometres in. The route isn’t particularly technical throughout, but following the final time check the road straightens until the final kilometre. Here, a quick right-left-right combination will lead the riders into the finishing stretch, where the Giro d’Italia will conclude.

The GC riders cannot underestimate this stage with the potential for minutes to be won and lost. The Giro d’Italia isn’t over just yet.

Giro d'Italia Time trial start times

All start times are available courtesy of the RCS here.

Key slots to look out for, in CEST (BST +1) are:

Filippo Ganna – 14.08

Remi Cavagna – 14.58

Alberto Bettiol – 15.38

Dan Martin – 16.10

João Almeida – 16.16

Romain Bardet – 16.25

Simon Yates – 16.31

Damiano Caruso – 16.34

Egan Bernal – 16.37

Contenders

Fillippo GannaImage credit: Italy Photo Press / Offside

There are two succinct battles: the battle for stage victory, and the battle for the maglia rosa. Firstly, let’s take a look at those who will want to challenge for the stage.

It wouldn’t make sense to start with anyone other than Filippo Ganna. The Italian has participated in four time trials at the Giro d’Italia and won all four. He is the clear favourite despite the superb work he has given to Egan Bernal’s chase for pink since Ganna won the opening stage in Turin three weeks ago. Stage 14 of last year’s race was a similar length, and Ganna beat everyone by over one minute bar his teammate Rohan Dennis. Without any major climbs, the route to the centre of Milan suits Ganna down to a tee.

Without the presence of Rohan Dennis, Remi Cavagna is Ganna’s main adversary. The Frenchman would’ve been disappointed to finish just fifth in Turin three weeks ago, particularly as he’d beaten Ganna at the Tour de Romandie the week prior. Cavagna struck out from the breakaway on stage 18 in a bid for stage honours, but was caught and put into the red by Alberto Bettiol with just over 5km left. Although Cavagna missed out on the stage, it would’ve been a good chance for Cavagna to test his legs ahead of Milan.

Although they are now without Remco Evenepoel, Deceuninck Quick-Step have rescued their Giro with a sublime final week from João Almeida. Almeida was almost six minutes down on fifth place exiting the final rest day, but is now just 62 seconds behind Bardet who occupies the final place in the top five. Almeida can move up in the GC and could challenge for the stage too.

Jumbo-Visma have more than one great chance here, which was proven three weeks ago in Turin. Edoardo Affini and Tobias Foss were second and third that day and have both demonstrated fine form over the Giro. Competing in just his second Grand Tour, Foss is currently a superb ninth overall, whilst Affini almost spoiled Nizzolo’s party when attacking in the finale of stage 13.

Max Walscheid, Matthias Brändle and Alberto Bettiol are other riders that could have stage ambitions. However, it would take the ride of a lifetime to defeat Ganna.

Egan Bernal has risen to the challenge over the last week after faltering on the Sega di Ala, and now has a two-minute buffer to Damiano Caruso. With Yates a further one and half minutes back, it would take something exceptional for the maglia rosa to change hands.

As both time-trials at this year’s Giro are entirely flat, we can use the opening stage to roughly estimate the GC rider’s ability on the time trial bike.

  • Egan Bernal +0:39
  • Damiano Caruso +0:32
  • Simon Yates +0:38
  • Alex Vlasov +0:24
  • Romain Bardet +0:52
  • Dani Martinez +0:36
  • Hugh Carthy +0:38
  • João Almeida +0:17
  • Tobias Foss +0:13
  • Dan Martin +0:57
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    When examining the time gaps here, we must first consider that the stage 21 time trial is more than three times longer than the opening stage, meaning we can expect gaps around three times as large. Further, we must also contemplate that the riders now have 20 days of racing in the legs. Anything can happen.

    Caruso has proven that he is a slightly better time trialist than Bernal and Yates, but the two minutes he needs to overhaul Bernal is almost certainly out of reach. Bardet jumped into fifth place after a fine ride on stage 20, but is one of the weaker time trialists in the top ten. He could lose out with Martínez, Carthy and Almeida. Although he is still seeking his first pro win, Almeida could still finish as high as fourth with the four riders ahead of him within two minutes. The aforementioned Foss is arguably the best time trialist in the top ten, but he is too far back to make an impression on the top five.

    Prediction

    Although he hasn’t been racing for his own GC position, Filippo Ganna has had few days off at the Giro d’Italia. The time trial World Champion has been working tirelessly for Egan Bernal in his pursuit of the maglia rosa, and unless anything extraordinary transpires, the Ineos Grenadiers will win the maglia rosa for the second consecutive year. We think Ganna will have more than enough left in the tank to make it five out of five in time trials at the Giro. 

    Filippo Ganna is our pick to win stage 21, whilst Egan Bernal will hold on to win the Giro d'Italia.

    Cover image: Russ Ellis