EGAN Bernal is set to become the first Colombian winner of the Tour de France and the youngest winner in 90 years. JOHN TREVORROW reports:
AT the end of the final mountain stage, a victorious Egan Bernal crossed the finishing line arm in arm with his teammate and second overall Geraint Thomas.
The pair were in fourth and fifth place on the stage but have only the formality of tomorrow’s ride into Paris to complete their triumph.
The Team Ineos pair easily answered all challenges thrown at them by the impressive Jumbo Visma squad.
Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck QuickStep) who had shown signs of cracking over the past two days finally succumbed to the continued attacks and has dropped off the podium and down to fifth place. But it has been a brilliant and courageous tour from the Frenchman who has caused many experts to rethink just how you can race this tough event.
The 20th stage from Albertville to Val Thorens was shortened to only 59 kms because of more freak weather and mudslides. An early breakaway got clear containing Vincenzo Nibali and his Bahrain Merida teammate Dylan Teuns, Tony Gallopin (AG2R-La Mondiale), Sebastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis) Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha Alpecin), Michael Woods (EF Education First) and the Astana pair of Omar Fraile and Gorka Izagirre.
Nibali attacked aggressively and just held on to take the stage from the flying old man of cycling Alejandro Valverde and his Movistar teammate Mikel Landa. “I suffered, but it’s great to win,” said Nibali. “It wasn’t easy for me after the fatigue of the Giro d’Italia. I tried to do the GC but exploded. There was a lot of criticism and I thought about going home, but I fought to honour the Tour de France. In the last few days I felt better, and so, even after the fatigue of yesterday, I went for it.
“It wasn’t easy after last year and my crash on l’Alpe d’Huez. I hadn’t won a race since, so this is huge. This is for my grandfather who passed away recently. It’s also for all my team and staff who helped me get back to my best.”
Bernal and Thomas rolled in three seconds later with Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo Visma) who moved into third overall.
For the most part, the 33-kilometre climb to Val Thorens was a whittling-down process, with Jumbo-Visma pushing a tough pace to distance Alaphilippe. The Dutch squad succeeded in their goal midway up the climb and kept pushing on to ensure Kruijswijk made it onto the final podium.
Bernal becomes the first rider since Alberto Contador in 2007 to win both the yellow and white jerseys (for young riders) at the Tour de France. “Now we can say we are really close to securing victory,” said Bernal after the finish., “There’s one stage to go and I hope it all goes OK, but I can almost say I’ve won my first Tour de France.
“I imagine everyone is going crazy in Colombia. This is a historic moment for our country, so I’m happy. This is a dream come true. I watched the Tour on television and dreamed about winning it. Now my dream has come true, so I’m feeling so many different emotions.”
From the Aussie perspective it wasn’t a big day. Simon Yates may be English, but he led the Mitchelton Scott team strongly over the past week and attempted to make up for the disappointment of the previous day but fell short after looking very strong.
Richie Porte (Trek Segafredo) didn’t have a great day. The Australian suffered up the extremely long final climb of the Tour, cracked early and just failed to claw his way into the top 10. It’s been a pretty disappointing tour for Porte, finishing in 11th place. He had hoped for it to be his redemption ride as he crashed out on stage nine in the past two editions. In 2017 Porte looked in real contention and, I believe, he would have finished second. Sadly it looks like Porte won’t get to add a Tour de France podium to his impressive record. When you look back at his career and just how important he was to the victories of Wiggins and Froome, it is a terrible shame.
Of course we are all waiting for Caleb to produce his scintillating sprint on the Champs Elysees at the end of the final stage. He is the fastest man in this bike race and a third win will just seal the deal. It has been a brilliant performance to get through his first Tour de France.