Egan Bernal

Egan Bernal
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Egan Bernal withdraws from Tour de France

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GRENOBLE, France — Defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal has pulled out of the race ahead of a mammoth stage in the Alps, his Ineos Grenadiers team said Wednesday.

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

Hampered by back pain, the 23-year-old rider lost more time during Tuesday’s first Alpine stage.

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

“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. “I have the greatest respect for this race and I’m already looking forward to coming back in the years ahead.”

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Last year, Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour, and the youngest champion of the post-World War II era. His team said Bernal will try to recover as quickly as possible and redefine his goals for the rest of the season.

“We have taken this decision with Egans’ best interests at heart,” Ineos manager 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.”

Bernal’s withdrawal marked the end of Ineos’ dominance at cycling’s biggest event.

The successful period started in 2012 with Bradley Wiggins’ victory, when the team was called Team Sky. The squad won seven of the last eight editions with four different riders, but its best-placed rider this year is Richard Carapaz, who stood 14th ahead of Wednesday’s Stage 17.

Arguably the toughest, the trek features the Col de La Madeleine and the Col de La Loze, the Tour’s highest point this year at 2,304 meters.

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 kilometers of the climb are particularly difficult, with very steep sections and sharp turns.

MORE: How Roglic beat Luka Doncic in Slovenia

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Egan Bernal, injured, plummets further as Tour de France enters decisive days

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An injured Egan Bernal, his Tour de France title defense already extinguished, lost even more time in the 16th stage on Tuesday as the overall leaders prepared for the event’s highest summit finish on Wednesday.

Bernal, a Colombian who last year became the first South American to win the Tour, dropped off the back of peloton near the start of the day’s penultimate climb.

He fell from eight minutes behind in the overall standings to 19:04 back of leader Primoz Roglic, reportedly citing knee and back problems.

“It’s a bit of a test of pride, passion, and character now,” Ineos team manager Dave Brailsford said, according to VeloNews.com. “As far as we are concerned, this is the first day of trying to win the Tour next year.”

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Ineos Grenadiers’ streak of five straight Tour crowns dating to 2015 — when it was Team Sky led by Chris Froome — will end when the three-week race finishes in Paris on Sunday. Froome, a four-time Tour winner leaving for a new team next season, and 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas were both left off the Ineos Tour squad.

The justification was that neither was physically ready for a three-week Grand Tour, especially Froome, coming back from a June 2020 crash into the wall of a house that nearly ended his career.

“People are entitled to their opinions, but I didn’t gamble with the selection,” Brailsford said, according to Cyclingnews.com. “They were big decisions. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I’m sure that people have a lot to say, but they’re not privy to the facts that I’ve got.”

In the four remaining competitive stages, Roglic and Tadej Pogacar are expected to duel to become the first Slovenian to win the Tour.

Roglic, of the new dominant team Jumbo-Visma, kept his 40-second lead over younger Pogacar on Tuesday. Pogacar attacked twice in the last two kilometers of the minor finishing climb, but Roglic followed him each time.

Sixteen minutes earlier, German Lennard Kämna of Bora-Hansgrohe won the stage from a breakaway, but he has no hope of making the overall podium.

The Tour continues Wednesday with the 17th stage, a more daunting mountain day starting at the 1968 Winter Olympic host of Grenoble and finishing at Meribel, a site of 1992 Olympic Alpine skiing, with the highest summit finish of the Tour.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 6 a.m. ET.

Roglic and Pogacar both called Wednesday the “Queen Stage,” or the most demanding.

“Tadej is the closest rival, and I expect he’ll try to attack,” Roglic said, according to Cyclingnews.com. “The other guys will probably look after each other.”

MORE: How Roglic beat Luka Doncic in Slovenia

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Egan Bernal’s Tour de France defense collapses in mountains

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Ineos’ reign is over at the Tour de France.

Defending champion Egan Bernal lost seven minutes to leader Primoz Roglic and dropped from third place to 13th in the overall standings in Sunday’s 15th stage.

“I was not going well from the first climb to be honest, I was almost dropped there,” Bernal said of the first of three major ascents that came 61 miles into the 108-mile day. “It’s difficult to say how I felt, the feeling was that I was empty — I had no power.

“The other riders have been stronger than me and we have to accept that.”

Bernal’s plummet while scaling the Grand Colombier effectively ensures an Ineos Grenadiers rider will not win the Tour de France for the first time since 2014, going back to when the outfit was sponsored by Sky and led by Chris Froome.

Ineos chose not to bring Froome nor 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas to this year’s Tour, putting their eggs in the Bernal basket. Froome, a four-time Tour winner, announced before he was left off the squad that he is moving to another team after this season.

The new story: Slovenia is poised to produce its first Tour de France podium finishers and champion.

Countrymen Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar remain one-two in the overall standings after they finished one-two on Sunday, with Pogacar getting the stage win. They finished in the same time after the last 11-mile climb, but Pogacar gained four seconds in bonus to move 40 seconds behind Roglic.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

“For the moment, [Roglic] seems unstoppable,” said Pogacar, a 21-year-old who finished third at the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, when Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a Grand Tour. “Today, Bernal cracked. Maybe one day I can crack. Or Roglic. You never know in a three-week stage race, especially Tour. So it’s still opportunities.”

Roglic, a former world junior champion ski jumper, and his Jumbo-Visma team looked as dominant as ever on Sunday. They had five riders at the front when Bernal cracked, including rising American Sepp Kuss.

“Jumbo did a really hard pace today,” said Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates. “Some riders paid for it.”

Roglic and Bernal began the Tour two weeks ago as co-favorites. Roglic, who took up cycling eight years ago at age 22, didn’t dwell on Bernal, who went from 59 seconds back to 8:25 behind.

“I don’t really bother so much with others, who is doing well or bad,” Roglic said. “We have to keep the focus on ourselves.”

Colombian Rigoberto Uran inherited third place, 1:34 behind Roglic.

After Monday’s rest day, the the next three stages are in the mountains. The last competitive day is a 22-mile time trial Saturday, finishing with a category-one ascent.

MORE: How Roglic beat Luka Doncic

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