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All in the Mind’s Eye

24/05/2021

All in the Mind's Eye Egan Bernal Stage 16

Every day in the Giro, Egan Bernal seems to have different adversaries.

At Montalcino it was Emanuel Buchmann, at Campo Felice it was Aleksandr Vlasov, on the Zoncolan it was Simon Yates, today it was Damiano Caruso and Romain Bardet. Every time, the answer is that same. “I wanted to show I’m still in the game,” he said after the stage.

On the day Egan decided to do something special, – “It’s not everyday you win a stage in the Giro wearing the Maglia Rosa” he said when it was done – rain, snow and freezing temperatures forced changes on the organisers, and a 59 km loop containing the Passo Fedaia and the Passo Pordoi was cut from the route. That removed this year’s Pantani Climb and Cima Coppi. By way of compensation, 800 extra metres were added in the first 8 km, allowing the stage to roll through Colle Umberto, the birthplace of Ottavio Bottecchia, the first Italian to win the Tour de France.

That was not all that was cut. On a day when the helicopters that relay the television signal could not fly, we were deprived of what we most cherish: the evidence of our own eyes. We forget how easily they can be deceived, especially when camera lenses are involved. They flatten gradients, lower speeds, reduce distance, fatten bodies, frame out the damp, the cold and the stress. Any impression television images may give of real presence is a false one. When they fail, instead of wringing our hair in frustration, we should raise our palms in thanks, and revert to our imagination for normal service.

The most fondly remembered commentator in the early days of the Vuelta a Colombia was a Costa Rican called Carlos Arturo Rueda who, lacking information in real time, but receiving, on occasion, a skip of paper with a note, somehow wove over the hours a spellbinding account of the action. Even now his name is revered, even by many who never heard him, and it is not impossible that his words entered more deeply into the national consciousness precisely because, lacking any objective account of the race, they demanded of listeners not merely their eyes or ears but their entire imaginations.

From time to time, when a signal flickered through, we caught a glimpse of Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier working for his leader Vincenzo Nibali at the front of a six-man breakaway that also included Davide Formolo, João Almeida, Antonio Pedrero, and Gorka Izaguirre, who must have vivid memories of having to put food with frozen fingers into Nairo Quintana’s mouth on the Stelvio in 2014, the day of the stage finish at Valmartello, the day Nairo won the stage and took the Maglia Rosa. The conditions were, if anything, even worse than today

With 60 km to go, the advantage of the six reached 5’53”. It took 10 to reduce it to 4’20”, 10 more to cut it to 4’03”, 10 more to bring it down to 1’38”. By then, the Maglia Rosa group was in tatters: Vlassov had gone, Yates was losing time, Martínez was still their as the surprising Simon Carr drove the pace for Carthy. When he pulled aside, so too did Dani Martínez, and Egan Bernal sped to the top of the Passo Giau, then plummeted to the finish line, proving to Tadej, Primož and all the world that he is back in the game.

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