CAMPO FELICE, Italy (AP) — Former Tour de France champion Egan Bernal showed just why he is one of the favorites to win the Giro d’Italia as he stormed to victory Sunday on the ninth stage to also claim the leader’s pink jersey.

Bernal, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, attacked with about 500 meters remaining on the summit finish in the first top-categorized climb of this year’s race. Bernal passed the two previous leaders to claim his first stage win in a Grand Tour.

It is the first year Bernal has participated in the Italian race.

“I’ve already cried twice,” an emotional Bernal said immediately afterward. “I cannot believe what just happened, I just won my first stage in a Grand Tour. I made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am now.

“I was thinking I would do well today but I was not sure whether I could have won the stage. My teammates had a lot of confidence in me, they told me I could do it. This victory is for them, they really believe in me.”

Bernal had come close to a stage victory in the 2019 Tour de France — which he won — as he was leading Stage 19 when it was abruptly cut short by a violent hailstorm and landslide. Times were taken from the top of what proved to be the final climb and there was no official stage winner.

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The 24-year-old Bernal finally got his win on Sunday as he finished seven seconds ahead of Giulio Ciccone and Aleksandr Vlasov at the end of the 158-kilometer (98-mile) route from Castel di Sangro to the ski resort of Campo Felice. The stage featured three other categorized climbs as well as the final tough ascent on gravel roads.

There was a scare on the descent of the first climb of the day as Matej Mohorič lost his balance and crashed, landing on his head and snapping his bicycle in two. The Slovenian cyclist swiftly got to his feet and seemed to consider getting on a replacement bike before being taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

His Bahrain Victorious team had already lost leader Mikel Landa as he was forced to abandon the Giro after a crash on Stage 4.

Bernal took over the race lead from Attila Valter, who was dropped on the final climb. The Colombian has a 15-second lead over Remco Evenepoel and is 21 seconds ahead of Vlasov.

Monday’s 10th stage is an undulating 139-kilometer (86-mile) route from L’Aquila to Foligno. The first rest day is on Tuesday.

The Giro finishes on May 30 in Milan with an individual time trial.

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