Grenoble, France (AP) – Tour de France champion Egan Bernal was knocked out of the race before a giant stage in the Alps, his Ines Grenadiers team said Wednesday.
Bernal was struggling from last week’s stage in the Jura Mountains, where he spent more than seven minutes on the main contenders and slipped out of the fray. Troubled by back pain, the 23-year-old rider lost most of his time during the first alpine phase on Tuesday.
Bernal was 16th behind race leader Primoz Roglik, 19 minutes and four seconds behind.
“It’s not clear I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that under the circumstances it’s the right decision for me,” Bernal said. “I have the greatest respect for this race and I’m already looking forward to coming back in the years to come.”
Last year, Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour, and the youngest champion since World War II. His team said Bernal would try to recover as soon as possible and define his goals for the rest of the season.
“We have made this decision in the best interests of the Eagles,” said Dave Brailsford, Inois manager. “Egan is a true champion who loves racing, but he is also a young rider with many tours ahead of him.”
Bernal’s return marks the end of Inios’ dominance over the biggest cycling event. The successful era began with the victory of Bradley Wiggins in 2012, when the team was called Team Sky. The team has won seven of the last eight editions with four different rides, but the best place to get this year is Richard Corpus, who finished 17th to 14th on Wednesday.
Hardly the most difficult, this trip includes Colonel de la Madeleine and Colonel de la Loze, the highest point of the tour this year is 2,304 meters. The traffic-free route between the ski resorts of Meribel and Korchel was opened to cyclists this year after local authorities cleared the forest path. The last six kilometers of the ascent are particularly difficult, with very difficult terrain and sharp turns.
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