Egan Bernal thanks ‘lucky’ break before Giro for Tour de France success

Team Ineos rider comes home fourth behind Vicenzo Nibali as Julian Alaphilippe falls away

 Colombia’s Egan Bernal  is congratulated of Team Ineos team-mate Geraint Thomas  after retaining the overall leader’s yellow jersey on the 20th stage  of the Tour de France  between Albertville and Val Thorens. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA

Colombia’s Egan Bernal is congratulated of Team Ineos team-mate Geraint Thomas after retaining the overall leader’s yellow jersey on the 20th stage of the Tour de France between Albertville and Val Thorens. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA

 

Egan Bernal’s early season did not go as planned but a broken collarbone at training proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Team Ineos climber, who is poised to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France on Sunday.

Bernal skipped the Giro d’Italia after sustaining the injury and was promoted to Ineos co-leader with defending champion Geraint Thomas when four-time winner Chris Froome pulled out following a heavy crash in June.

Bernal repaid the team’s trust with a flawless ride from Brussels, making up for a relatively disappointing individual time-trial with strong displays in the mountains where he was only beaten by France’s Thibaut Pinot who abandoned on Friday.

“Since last October we planned for the Giro, thinking about the Giro all the time,” Bernal, who is leading Thomas by one minute 11 seconds going into the mostly-processional final stage to Paris, explained on Saturday.

The Tour, however, was always in the back of his mind after he had impressed in 2018 in supporting Froome and Thomas.

“At some point, I thought about not doing the Giro but the Tour, but eventually the Giro was the goal,” the 22-year-old said.

“But sadly I broke my collarbone. Maybe that happened for a reason and now I’m about to win the Tour de France, it’s really incredible.

“I don’t know if it’s called fate or destiny that if I hadn’t crashed before the Giro, I would not be in that position today.”

Riding a Giro-Tour double would have been an impossible feat for a 22-year-old, with the last rider to manage to win both races the same season being Marco Pantani in 1998.

“Two hours after the crash before the Giro, when I was still in pain, almost crying, I asked my coach how much time we have before the Tour and I started thinking about the Tour,” Bernal said.

The impact of what he has achieved on the Tour, though, has not yet sunk in for Bernal.

“Everything comes so quickly that I just can’t believe it yet,” he said.

“These last few days all I needed to do was get up, weigh myself, have breakfast, have the team briefing, race, massage, eat, sleep.

“I don’t know what’s going on in Colombia, I don’t even know what’s happening outside of the team to be honest.”

Bernal finished the penultimate stage stage won by 2014 champion Vicenzo Nibali of Italy in fourth place.

Defending champion Thomas is second overall ahead of Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk after France’s Julian Alaphilippe cracked in the final ascent to the ski resort of Val Thorens.

Bernal, who claimed the yellow jersey when he was the first at top of the Col de l’Iseran in Saturday’s truncated 19th stage, was never bothered in a stage that had been shortened due to landslides on the initial course.

Three Colombians will feature in the top 10 as former podium finishers Rigoberto Uran and Nairo Quintana lie seventh and eighth overall, respectively.

Alaphilippe cracked with 14km to go in the final 33-km climb ending 2,365 metres above sea level and slipped from second to fifth overall.

Bernal is 1:11 ahead of Thomas, who was always bested by the Colombian in the mountains and never looked in a position to threaten him on his favourite terrain. Kruijswijk is 1:31 off the pace.

The Dutchman’s Lotto Jumbo-Visma team set a high pace at the foot of the climb to Val Thorens and Laurens De Plus stepped up a gear to trim the peloton as the breakaway riders’ advantage melted.

Sensing the main pack breathing down the neck of the breakaway, Nibali, looking to salvage a poor campaign with a stage win, went solo with 12.5km left.

He never looked back and held off world champion Alejandro Valverde, who took second place 10 seconds behind with his Movistar team-mate and fellow Spaniard Mikel Landa finishing third.

Bernal crossed the line 17 seconds off the pace to Thomas’s accolade.

Dan Martin improved one place to 18th overall and looks set to finish in the same position when the race concludes on Sunday in Paris, writes Shane Stokes.

Martin was 19th on the penultimate stage to Val Thorens, remaining with the general classification riders for much of the stage before sliding backwards with several uphill kilometres remaining.

He crossed the line two minutes and 10 seconds behind the stage winner Vincenzo Nibali. Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb) had been in the day’s breakaway with Nibali, but the Irishman was hauled back on the climb to the finish. He eventually finished 99th, 16 minutes and 14 seconds back.

Martin ended the day 44 minutes 30 seconds behind Bernal (Team Ineos) and overtook the Kazakhstani rider Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) to advance one place in the GC. Roche is 45th overall.

“It’s been a strange Tour for me,” said Martin. “Obviously I came in with really good condition and for whatever reason it just didn’t happen. I felt like there was something blocking me the whole Tour and I’m working with the team to get to the bottom of it and come back stronger.”

TOUR DE FRANCE

Stage 20, Albertville to Val Thorens: 1 Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) 59.5 kilometres in 1 hours 51 mins 53 secs, 2 A Valverde (Movistar Team) at 10 secs, 3 M Landa (Movistar Team) at 14 secs, 4 E Bernal (Team Ineos) at 17 secs, 5 G Thomas (Team Ineos) same time, 6 R Uran (EF Education First) at 23 secs.

Irish: 19 D Martin (UAE Team Emirates) at 2 mins 10 secs; 99 N Roche (Team Sunweb) at 16 mins 14 secs.

Sprint 1 – Val Thorens 59.5km: 1 Nibali 20 pts, Valverde 17, Landa15

Mountain 1 – Val Thorens (2,365,m): 1 Nibali 40 pts, Valverde 30, 3 Landa 24.

Young riders: 1 Bernal 1 hour 52 mins 10 secs, 2 G Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 52 secs, 3 L Kämna (Team Sunweb) at 1 min 13 secs.

Combativity: Nibali.

Teams: 1 Movistar Team, 5 hours 36 mins 33 secs; 2 Team Ineos, at 10 secs; 3 Mitchelton-Scott, at 4 mins 57 secs.

Other: 7 UAE Team Emirates, at 12 mins 28 secs; 22 Team Sunweb at 33 mins 4 secs

General classification after stage 20: Bernal ) 79 hours 52 mins 52 secs, 2 Thomas at 1 min 11 secs; 3 S Kruijswijk (Team Jumbo-Visma) at 1 min 31 secs, 4 E Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 1 min 56 secs, 5 J Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 3 mins 45 secs, 6 Landa at 4 mins 23 secs.

Irish: 18 D Martin (UAE Team Emirates) at 44 mins 30 secs; 45 N

Roche (Team Sunweb) at 1 hours 45 mins 38 secs

Points Classification: 1 Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 309 pts, 2 E

Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 224, 3 S Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) 203.

Mountains Classification: 1 Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) 86 pts, 2 Bernal 78, 3 T Wellens (Lotto Soudal) 74.

Young riders classification: 1 Bernal 79 hours 52 mins 52 secs, 2 D Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) at 23 mins 29 secs; 3 E Mas (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 57 mins 35 secs.

Teams classification: 1 Movistar Team, 239 hours 45 mins 51 secs, 2 Trek-Segafredo, at 47 mins 54 secs, 3 Team Ineos, at 57 mins 52 secs.

Other: 9 UAE Team Emirates, at 2 hours 9 mins 35 secs; 19 Team Sunweb, at 4 hours 43 mins 58 secs.

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