Tour de France 2019

First champ for Colombia

Colombia’s Egan Bernal, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, is congratulated by Welsh teammate Geraint Thomas as he crosses the finish line of the 20th stage.
Colombia’s Egan Bernal, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, is congratulated by Welsh teammate Geraint Thomas as he crosses the finish line of the 20th stage. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Bernal set to become his country's only Tour winner, with just today's processional ride left

VAL THORENS • Climbing phenomenon Egan Bernal is poised to become the first Colombian to win the Tour de France as he retained the overall lead after yesterday's 20th stage, a 59km ride from Albertville.

The Team Ineos rider finished fourth in the stage won by 2014 champion Vicenzo Nibali, the only man to interrupt the British cycling outfit's dominance of the Tour since 2012.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas is second overall ahead of Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, after France's Julian Alaphilippe cracked in the final ascent to the ski resort of Val Thorens, slipping from second to fifth overall.

Today's 128km final stage from Rambouillet to Paris is a largely processional ride with only the final sprint being contested.

Bernal, who claimed the yellow jersey when he was the first at the top of the Col de l'Iseran in Friday's truncated 19th stage, was never bothered in a stage that had been shortened due to landslides on the initial course.

"We still have to make it to Paris. I can't understand what's happening, I will need a few days, it's incredible," he said in an emotional interview.

"I felt good in the climbs, I took it kilometre by kilometre."

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  • Lead in seconds Egan Bernal has over Geraint Thomas.

Welshman Thomas, who is 1min 11sec behind his Ineos teammate, hailed Bernal, who will also win the white jersey for the best Under-25 rider in the race, as "the best person to have in front of me".

Joking that he was looking forward to having a burger, he said: "To get first and second, it doesn't get any better. I can be happy and proud that I've done everything possible to be in the best shape here. And the whole team has been amazing.

"We've taken a lot of flak as always, but we've proven time and time again that we're a real strong unit, and we know how to ride well and perform in this race."

He later tweeted: "Congratulations Egan Bernal. What a rider! The first of many."

Dave Brailsford, the team's general manager, added: "Everybody's been questioning the team. It was a brilliant race, it was the most exciting Tour that we've taken part in.

"But in the end, strategy paid out over chaos, and teamwork paid out over individuals."

Bernal, 22, will become the youngest rider to win the Tour de France since the end of the World War II and plaudits flew in fast.

Four-time Tour champion Chris Froome, who was ruled out of the event after suffering multiple fractures at last month's Criterium du Dauphine, spoke of his pride at his fellow Ineos rider's feat, tweeting: "What a moment for Egan Bernal, his family and for Colombia.

"It was never a case of if he would wear the yellow jersey but when!"

Three Colombians will also feature in the top 10 as former podium finishers Rigoberto Uran and Nairo Quintana are seventh and eighth overall respectively.

Frenchman Romain Bardet, who dropped out of overall contention early in the race, is set to snatch the polka dot jersey for the mountain classification, while Slovakia's Peter Sagan is expected to win a record seventh green jersey for the points classification.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 28, 2019, with the headline 'First champ for Colombia'. Print Edition | Subscribe