Cycling-Cool and composed Bernal claims victory in Giro d'Italia

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MILAN (Reuters) -Colombia's Egan Bernal won the Giro d'Italia on Sunday, keeping his composure throughout a tough final week to claim his second grand-tour victory with a ruthlessly efficient performance.

The Ineos-Grenadiers rider, who succeeds his team mate Tao Geoghegan Hart, completed his victory with a safe ride in the final time trial, a 30.3-km effort around Milan to beat Italian Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) by one minute 29 seconds, based on provisional results.

Italian Filippo Ganna, also of Ineos-Grenadiers, won the time trial.

"It's difficult to realise what happened. I have just won a Giro d'Italia. I have no words after what happened in these two years," said Bernal.

Briton Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) took third place overall, 4:15 off Bernal's pace, after threatening him with strong rides in two of the final three mountain stages.

But the 24-year-old Colombian, whose 2020 season was hampered by back problems after he won the 2019 Tour de France, stayed cool under pressure and, with the invaluable support of his lieutenant and compatriot Dani Martinez, effectively sealed the overall win in Saturday's final mountain trek.

Caruso attacked early in that stage but Bernal kept the gap under control before securing second place on the day with a late acceleration, giving himself enough of a cushion to prevent any nasty surprises in the final time trial.

Bernal built his victory in the first two weeks, with a stunning attack on gravel roads to claim his maiden grand-tour stage victory in Campo Felice and another dominant ride in Cortina d'Ampezzo, his win overshadowed somewhat by the organisers' decision to shorten the stage due to bad weather.

The second Colombian to win the race after Nairo Quintana in 2014, Bernal can now look to join Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome on the list of riders with titles in all three grand tours.

Next up for Bernal may be the Olympics road race, although he said this week he was not sure if he would be going to Tokyo.

He could then take part in the Vuelta and even if Briton Adam Yates -- Simon's twin brother -- is the Ineos-Grenadiers' team leader, Bernal could complete a grand-tour treble there.

He could also become the youngest rider to do so. Contador was 25 when he achieved the feat.

(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Clare Fallon)