Last year’s winner Egan Bernal withdrew from the Tour de France yesterday with the defence of his title already in tatters.
The 23-year-old Colombian’s team Ineos announced he was dropping out ahead of the key 17th stage.
Bernal came into the Tour with a back injury and missing key allies and two of his team then suffered injuries before Bernal himself suffered a meltdown on a tough ascent on Sunday that effectively ended his 2020 campaign as he fell eight minutes behind the pace.
“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 in a statement from Ineos.
The stage on Wednesday takes the peloton over the highest peak in this year’s race in a ride that resembles the one where the man from the Andes sealed his breakthrough win last year.
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Slovenian rider Primoz Roglic leads the Tour, riding for the Jumbo team that has eclipsed Ineos this year. Amother Slovenian, Tadej Pogacar, is second and a clutch of riders are still in with a chance of a shot at the podium.
Bernal was a distant 16th in the standings and his team have failed to find their form on the race.
“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” said Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford.
“Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”
Bernal’s withdrawal almost certainly ends a sequence of five straight Tour de France victories for Ineos and its previous incarnation, Team Sky.