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.”
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