Reigning Tour de France champion Egan Bernal pulls out of race ahead of 17th stage


Defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal has withdrawn from the race just hours before a mammoth stage in the Alps.

Bernal had been struggling since Sunday’s stage in the Jura mountains, where he dropped more than seven minutes on the main contenders and slipped out of contention.

After Monday’s rest day, Bernal suffered again on Tuesday’s 16th stage to Villard-de-Lans.

Hampered by back pain and subsequently knee concerns, the 23-year-old indicated afterwards he hoped to continue out of respect for the race.

But on the morning of Wednesday’s queen stage to the Col de la Loze above Meribel, his team Ineos Grenadiers announced the Colombian was withdrawing from the race, although it did not specify the reason for the decision.

“This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that it is the right decision for me in the circumstances,” Bernal said.

Bernal was in 16th place overall, 19 minutes and four seconds behind race leader Primoz Roglic.

The decision comes five days short of the race’s concluding stage in Paris.

“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” Ineos Grenadiers team principal Dave Brailsford said.

“Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”

Bernal had pulled out of the Criterium du Dauphine with back pains last month.

Bernal, at 22, was the youngest Tour de France winner since 1909 last year.(AP: Christophe Ena)

In 2019 he became the youngest rider to win the Tour de France in 110 years.

Stage 17, arguably the toughest of the race, features the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Loze, the Tour’s highest point this year at 2,304 metres.

The traffic-free pass between the ski resorts of Meribel and Courchevel was opened to cyclists this year after a forest track was paved by local authorities.

The last six kilometres of the climb are particularly difficult, with very steep sections and sharp turns.

AP



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Pogacar beats Roglic as Bernal cracks on the Colombier


“Tadej is very strong – I have to say he has great legs. My teammates did a great job today as I really wanted to win, but I have to admit Tadej was slightly stronger,” said Roglic, who still had the support of Tom Dumoulin and Sepp Kuss with two kilometres to go.

Jumbo-Visma and Primoz Roglic bossing the peloton on Sunday.Credit:AP

Australian Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) took third place, at 35 enjoying a sweet resurgence on the Tour, but he does not appear to be in the same league as Roglic and Pogacar.

“Today was a tough day, Jumbo-Visma controlled the race and set super high temp. A lot of riders were dropped and I wanted to focus on the finale,” said the 21-year-old Pogacar.

Roglic leads Pogacar by 40 seconds and Colombian Rigoberto Uran (EF Pro Cycling) by 1min 34secs.

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Bernal, who was third overall 59 seconds off the pace before the start in Lyon, dropped out of the top 10, meaning the old Sky train will not win the Tour for the first time since Chris Froome crashed out in 2014. Prior to 2014, they had won all the other editions since Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the race in 2012.

Bernal had been looking under par in the first part of the race and Sunday’s stage confirmed that impression as the 23-year-old zig-zagged up the road, sweat dripping from his face, while Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert stretched the shrinking peloton.

“They were setting a really high pace. Nobody stood a chance,” said Pogacar.

There was no coming back for the Colombian, who was paced up to the line by teammate Michal Kwiatkowski.

Adam Yates, riding for the Australian Mitchelton-Scott team, was the only rider to attack, seven kilometres from the summit, but the Briton’s effort was short-lived as he was effortlessly reined in by Jumbo-Visma.

In the final 300 metres, Porte launched the sprint, but Roglic and Pogacar followed and the younger Slovenian prevailed to win his second stage on his Tour debut.

Reuters

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