Grenoble, France (AP) — Defensive Tour de France champion Igan Bernal has been eliminated from the race ahead of a huge stage in the Alps, his Ineos Grena Deer team said Wednesday.
Bernal has been struggling since the stage that took place on Mount Jura last weekend, he has fallen more than 7 minutes from the main contender and is out of competition. The 23-year-old rider, who suffered from back pain, lost more time on Tuesday’s first alpine stage.
Bernal lags race leader Primoz Roglic 19 minutes and 4 seconds in overall 16th place.
“It’s not natural to want the Tour de France to end,” Bernal said, but I agree that it’s the right decision for me in the context. “I have the greatest respect for this race and look forward to coming back in the next few years.”
Last year, Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour and became the youngest champion after World War II. His team has said that Bernal will recover as quickly as possible and redefine goals for the rest of the season.
“We made this decision with Egans’ best interests in mind,” said Dave Brailsford, Manager of Ineos. “Egan is a true champion who loves racing, but he is also a young rider who has many tours ahead.”
Bernal’s withdrawal ended Ineos’ dominance in cycling’s biggest event. The successful period began with the victory of Bradley Wiggins in 2012 when the team was called Team Sky. The squad has won seven of the last eight editions with four different riders, but the best player of the year is Richard Carapaz, who finished 14th over stage 17 on Wednesday.
Arguably the toughest trek is the Col de La Madeleine and Col de La Loze, featuring the 2,304m highest point on this year’s tour. The curfew pass between Mary Bell Ski Resort and Kushvel Ski Resort was opened to cyclists this year after local authorities paved the forest path. The last 6km climb is particularly difficult with very steep sections and sharp turns.
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