Egan Bernal‘s hopes of a repeat Tour de France title were dented on the Tour’s first summit finish as he lost 38 seconds to leader Primoz Roglic on Friday.
Roglic and countryman Tadej Pogacar gapped Bernal on the last of seven categorized climbs on the 13th of 21 stages, six minutes behind Colombian stage winner Dani Martinez.
“I looked at my numbers from today’s stage, and they were almost my best ever,” Bernal said, according to a Cyclingnews.com translation of a WielerFlits report. “The rest simply went faster.”
Martinez isn’t among the contenders to win the overall title in Paris in nine days.
That battle was expected to come down to Bernal, of Tour stalwart Ineos Grenadiers, and Roglic, of the surging Jumbo-Visma team. But now Bernal is in third place, 59 seconds behind Roglic and 14 seconds behind Pogacar, the UAE Team Emirates rider who moved from seventh to second.
“As long as you can gain time, every second is good,” Roglic said atop an extinct volcano.
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Bernal and Ineos have more chances to rebound. After Saturday’s 14th stage, the next four stages are in the mountains with opportunities to attack. Ineos chose not to bring four-time Tour champion Chris Froome and 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas to this year’s Tour.
Slovenia has never put a cyclist on the Tour de France overall podium.
Now, the nation with the population of New Mexico boasts the top two riders, a year after Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana. Pogacar, then 20, was third in Spain, becoming the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.
“Before the start of the Tour, I knew that [Pogacar] was super strong,” Roglic said. “From the last year, we already saw he can do really big things in Vuelta. So not really so big surprise, but, yeah, really happy also at the end we have two Slovenians on the top.”
The Tour continues Saturday with a five-climb stage, but none of the highest categories and a flat finish into Lyon. CNBC and NBC Sports Gold air coverage at 7 a.m. ET.
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