GRENOBLE, France (AP) – Tour de France defending champion Egan Bernal has retired from the race ahead of a mammoth stage in the Alps, his team Ineos Grenadiers said on Wednesday.
Bernal had been fighting since last weekend’s stage in the Jura mountains, where he fell more than seven minutes over the main contenders and came out of the dispute. Injured by back pain, the 23-year-old rider lost more time during the first alpine stage on Tuesday.
Bernal was 16th overall, 19 minutes and four seconds behind race leader Primoz Roglic.
“Obviously it’s not like I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree it’s the right decision for me in the circumstances,” Bernal said. “I have the utmost respect for this race and I look forward to returning in the coming years.”;
Last year, Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour and the youngest champion of the post-World War II era. His team said Bernal will try to recover as quickly as possible and redefine his goals for the rest of the season.
“We made that decision with Egans’ best interests, ”said Dave Brailsford, Inos manager. “Egan is a true champion who loves to run, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead.”
The withdrawal of Bernal meant the end of Inos’ dominance in the biggest cycling event. The success of the period began in 2012 with the victory of Bradley Wiggins, when the team was renamed Team Sky. The roster has won seven of the last eight editions with four different riders, but its best ranked this year is Richard Carapaz, who placed 14th ahead of Wednesday’s Phase 17.
Undoubtedly the hardest, the route has the Madeleine pass and the Loze pass, the highest point of the Tour this year at 2,304 meters. The free traffic pass between the Meribel and Courchevel ski resorts has opened to cyclists this year after local authorities paved a forest trail. The last six kilometers of ascent are particularly difficult, with very steep sections and sharp turns.
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