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Caruso Dreams Come True Finishing Second at Giro d’Italia

It was a tale of two races at this year’s Giro d’Italia for Bahrain Victorious. Ultimately, it was a dream ending with Damiano Caruso turning the team’s fortunes around after a difficult start to the race.

With the team all in for Landa in the GC, who showed signs of promise on stage 4, it soon turned to disappointment after crashing out on stage 5. However, it was a sign of things to come from Bahrain Victorious, with the team showing incredible fighting spirit and bouncing back the next day with a stage win for Gino Mäder in the breakaway.

With team spirit on the rise, it was more unfortunate news for the team as key rider Matej Mohoric crashed on a descent on stage 9 and was forced to abandon the race, leaving only six riders for the remaining 12 stages. Despite this, Caruso showed leadership and maintained consistency throughout the race, keeping a level head and quietly moving into third in the GC.

It was more bad news for the team after Gino Mäder was forced to abandon on stage 12. However, team morale never dropped, as Jan Tratnik put in an incredible performance from the breakaway on Monte Zoncolan, narrowly missing out on the win and finishing second.

From then on, it was a fight for the podium as Caruso’s determination moved him into second in GC on the shortened Queen Stage. From then on, the GC rivals looked to get stronger, and much of the talk was surrounding Simon Yates (Bike-Exchange) challenging the Maglia Rosa. But, Caruso continued to fight till the very end and have “his day like a champ” on the penultimate stage, riding to victory after impressive teamwork from Pello Bilbao.

From that moment on, Caruso only needed to better Yates’ time trial to secure second place and match the team’s best finish in a Grand Tour. Caruso put in the fastest time trial against his rivals, reducing the gap further and showing his fight till the very end. The team took the ‘fair play’ award for the fewest penalties as a reward for the collective hard work to cap it off.

The story of Caruso going from a domestique to leader and achieving so much has no doubt captured the hearts of many at this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Damiano Caruso commented on his achievement: “It’s an incredible moment for me. It isn’t easy to find the words to describe the emotions that I’m feeling now. It was something unexpected at the start of this Giro because we had a different plan. Then, day by day, the awareness that I could achieve something great increased, and now I’m here to celebrate this podium. In the final time trial, I focused on my performance: I tried to go full gas without taking any risks. Then on the last km, I enjoyed it, knowing that everything was accomplished. Two of my dreams became true here at Giro, a Grand Tour stage win and a Grand Tour GC podium.
A second place at the Giro d’Italia, who would have thought it? I have to express my gratitude to my teammates and the whole team and to my family too. If I’m here now, it’s due to them.”

Giro d’Italia 2021 – 104th Edition – 21th stage Senago – Milano 30,3 km – 30/05/2021 – Damiano Caruso (ITA – Bahrain Victorious) – photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2021

Bahrain Victorious Head Sports Director, Gorazd Štangelj, shared his thoughts about the excellent results achieved by the team in this Giro:
“It’s something unbelievable. The results speak for themselves, especially the wins. The guys did an amazing job, and we achieved more than expected”.

Bahrain Victorious Technical Director Vladimir Miholjević thinks back on the past three weeks:
“We experienced a mix of emotions. We are happy because we achieved the objective we came here for, namely the final podium, although not with the rider we planned. Anyway, we knew we had more than a rider capable of competing at the highest possible level. At the same moment, we are also a bit sad, and we have regrets because we know that we could do even much better and win races like a Grand Tour. We will come back, for sure”.

(All pictures can be used for editorial and non-commercial usages only and are copyright @ChrisAuld @Bettiniphoto @TeamBahrainVictorious)

— Simona Mazzoleni to bahraincyclingteam.com

Damiano Caruso 3rd on Queen Stage and Moves up to 2nd in GC

Damiano Caruso displayed his resilience in harsh conditions that saw the Queen Stage shortened by 60 kilometres, removing the epic climbs up the Passo Fedaia and the Passo Pordoi. The conditions were so poor that spectators were left with no coverage of the riders for most of the race as helicopters could not take off.

The race eventually started 30 minutes later than planned, and on the descent of the first categorised climb, La Crosetta, a breakaway of six strong riders formed. The gap was just over five minutes to the peloton but was closed down by the key contenders in the GC on the Passo Giau.

As the gap came down to the breakaway, the race leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) put in an attack that dropped the rest of the contenders, which saw him win the stage. However, Damiano Caruso managed his losses best and moved up against the rest of the field, finishing third and moving into second in the GC.

After Stage 16, Caruso now sits 2:24 off the Maglia Rosa, with third place Hugh Carthy(EF Education Nippo) 3:40 down.

Damiano Caruso was excited with his performance and shared his thoughts on the eve of a deserved rest day: “Although the race was shortened, the intensity was high all day long, as we expected.
I felt good on the last climb. I was looking at the faces of other contenders, and I could understand at that moment that I was almost the strongest, except for Bernal, of course. I tried to follow the Maglia Rosa but I couldn’t. So I focussed only on my tempo and doing my best until the end. The morale now is high, for sure.
I want to say thank you to my teammates because they did a great job also today and to all the staff that helped provide extra clothing during the race, and with such bad weather, it’s something vital. Now, we will enjoy the rest day, and then after tomorrow, we will start again with the last fight.”

Gorazd Štangelj, Head Sports Director praised Damiano Caruso and the team: “Damiano did an amazing job today. He raced using his head and legs. We get out of these days at the maximum. Tomorrow is the rest day, and I wish that our guys have a quality rest. They faced difficult stages and bad weather, fast racing every day. It will be fundamental to recover well ahead of the last week of the Giro, which will be very brutal”.

(All pictures can be used for editorial and non-commercial usages only and are copyright @ChrisAuld @TeamBahrainVictorious)

— Simona Mazzoleni to bahraincyclingteam.com

Jan Tratnik just a step to the win on the epic stage to Monte Zoncolan, and Damiano Caruso keeps the 3rd position in GC after Stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia.

Who would’ve expected that Jan Tratnik would pick Monte Zoncolan to try to take one more career victory on Giro d’Italia? Team Bahrain Victorious Slovenian rider and Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team) made this monumental Giro stage even more attractive until the very end. Both riders were part of the day’s breakaway that split on the ramps of the iconic Zoncolan ascent in the finale. Tratnik was the first to attack with about 10km to go, with only Fortunato managing to close the gap. Then, with 2.5km to go, the Italian debutant’s decisive acceleration at the Giro earned him a legendary solo win. Jan Tratnik came to the finish in second place, 26” adrift.

The steep and brutal slopes of the Zoncolan – with gradients up to 27 percent – seemed never going to end for Jan Tratnik, especially when he was chasing the race leader in the final kilometers. The Slovenian rider expressed his thoughts after an exhausting stage under heavy conditions: ” For me, for sure, it was the longest three kilometers in my life. It was just a never-ending story. So hard. I saw my rival in front of me all the time that little ahead, but it was simply the strongest one. Otherwise, I wanted to follow, but there was no power anymore in me for that cherry on a cake. As a team, we didn’t plan to go into the breakaway, but our tactics were to go to the front and be a safeguard to Damiano Caruso, our GC. It just happened that I was at the right place at the right time, and things opened up to me to go there for it.  I gave my all, and I am really satisfied with a 2nd place”. 

Giro d’Italia 2021 – 104th Edition – 14th stage Cittadella – Monte Zoncolan 205 km – 22/05/2021 – Damiano Caruso (ITA – Bahrain Victorious) – photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2021

It was a good day for Team Bahrain Victorious. Besides the exciting ride from Tratnik, the team was delighted by the excellent ride of its captain Damiano Caruso. The Italian rider scored a top ten result, and above all, he maintained his 3rd place overall on a brutal day. 

Damiano Caruso: “These steep gradients don’t suit me. Nevertheless, I was able to manage the situation. I think that climbing at his own pace was the best thing to do. I never faced the climb on the other side of the Zoncolan, but I hope to have never to ride it if it is like this one. It is an ascent worth of its reputation. No doubt”.

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) kept the Maglia Rosa and has shown resistance to the attack from Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) in the last few hundred meters. Yates took the second position in GC over Vlasov with 1:33, and Damiano Caruso kept his third position with 1:51 seconds behind Bernal.

(All pictures can be used for editorial and non-commercial usages only and are copyright @Bettiniphoto @TeamBahrainVictorious)

— Simona Mazzoleni to bahraincyclingteam.com

Damiano Caruso moves up into 3rd position in the GC after a dusty Stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia

Swiss rider, Mauro Schmid (Team Qhubeka Assos) won today’s Stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia, 162km from Perugia to Montalcino.

From the early breakaway of 11 riders, Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) and Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto Soudal) finished second and third respectively.

Damiano Caruso and Pello Bilbao were the main protagonists of Team Bahrain Victorious. Damiano Caruso had great support in the right moments from all of his teammates, especially from Pello Bilbao. The Basque rider kept his eyes on him in the right moments on the gravel sections. Then he supported him to keep his position with the Maglia Rosa group, where Damiano was able to move up four positions in the GC into third.

Team Ineos Grenadiers led the head of the peloton throughout the stage, working hard for Maglia Rosa, Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), who crossed over the finish line 3’09” adrift from the winner but gained more time against his GC competitors.

Giro d’Italia 2021 – 104th Edition – 11th stage Perugia – Montalcino 162 km – 19/05/2021 – Damiano Caruso (ITA – Bahrain Victorious) – photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2021

Damiano Caruso shared his thoughts after the considerable effort: “I’m super happy because today was a key stage of this Giro. It was a tough and complicated one. In the end, I felt good, although when Maglia Rosa went, I couldn’t follow him. But I think I did a good race anyway. I want to say a big thank you to the whole team, both staff members and riders. Now it’s time to recover from the stage. Then we will see day by day. We need to keep calm, and at this moment, I want to think only about recovering well.”

Giro d’Italia 2021 – 104th Edition – 11th stage Perugia – Montalcino 162 km – 19/05/2021 – Pello Bilbao (ESP – Bahrain Victorious) – photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2021

Pello Bilbao was protecting and helping the team captain throughout the race: “I discovered the white roads only this season when I rode “Strade Bianche” for the first time in my life. I must admit that it became my favorite race, and today I got the confirmation that I really enjoy riding on the gravel roads. Although it was a hard day and we had difficult situations, we tried to solve them together with Damiano, who did a great job. We did our race, and we controlled the situation in the best way possible.”

(All pictures can be used for editorial and non-commercial usages only and are copyright @Bettiniphoto @TeamBahrainVictorious)

— Simona Mazzoleni to bahraincyclingteam.com