Méribel (dpa) – During the first Alpine stage, Egan Bernal struggled across the mountains in a group with old star André Greipel, before the defending champion reached the 107th Tour de France chapter.
Even before the queen stage on Wednesday, the 23-year-old Colombian got out and made the debacle of his super race team Ineos Grenadiers perfect. “Of course I didn’t want my Tour de France to end like this, but I agree that under the circumstances this is the right decision for me,” Bernal said in a nine-line message from his team.
It is the logical step to forget after his tour. As Bernal had already started the tour with back pain, he could never really keep up with the pace of Slovenian stars Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar. After the break-in in the Grand Colombier, the next walk followed on Tuesday, almost half an hour behind stage winner Lennard Kämna. Not worthy of a tour winner.
With the departure of Bernal, criticism of the all-powerful team boss Dave Brailsford also increases. The brain made a lot of miscalculations when he removed the two ex-winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas from the tour roster before the tour and put them all on the Bernal map. “You take your big players to such races,” lamented ex-tour champion Sir Bradley Wiggins, adding: “Their presence at dinner, on the flat stages or on the start list” has an effect, said the multiple Olympic champion.
The fact that Thomas finished second overall in the busy Tirreno-Adriatico cycle tour only made Brailsford’s decision questionable. Froome, who is still looking for shape after his bad fall a year ago, couldn’t have helped. Yet the four-time winner sees it differently: “I would have liked to go to the tour and could have played a part.” Wiggins said his former teammate was entitled to a nomination for his successes alone.
Instead of three captains, Ineos now has no head. The fact that Richard Carapaz, reigning Giro d’Italia winner, was fooled by Kämna on the stage to Villard-de-Lans, fits the picture. Thomas as captain in the Giro d’Italia and Froome in the Vuelta now have to save halfway through the season for the top team, which is supported with almost 40 million euros.
And Bernal? “Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider with a lot of tours to go,” said Brailsford. But probably not again this year. He has also canceled his participation in the World Cup in Imola. “I have the greatest respect for this flight and am already looking forward to returning in the coming years,” the youngster announced.