Another withdrawal: Egan Bernal wasn’t the only high profile rider to abandon overnight. Groupama-FDJ breakaway and time trial specialist Stefan Kung has also withdrawn from the race, for reasons that – as yet – remain unclear. That brings the number of withdrawals in this year’s Tour to 24 riders, leaving 152 still in the race.
More on Stage 17 …
“Both Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar who occupy the first two places of the overall classification spoke about stage 17 as the queen stage of this year’s Tour de France,” report the Tour organisers.
“They’ve recced the unprecedented uphill to Col de la Loze. After the lockdown period, the Jumbo-Visma team made Tignes their permanent training camp, so it wasn’t far for Roglic to go to col de la Loze several times. It’s a fairly new road. It’s actually a ski slope that has been recently asphalted for mountain bikes to go from Méribel to Courchevel and vice versa.
“One year ago, young Australian Alexander Evans, now riding for Circus-Wanty Gobert, won stage 8 of the Tour de l’Avenir from Brides-les-Bains to Méribel/Col de la Loze. It’s extremely steep!
“The last five kilometres promise a fierce battle between Roglic and Pogacar. Stage hunters will have the gruelling climb to col de la Madeleine to make a difference before “the crazy hard finale”, as Roglic described it yesterday after stage 16.”
The big news from France today is that reigning champion and Team Ineos Grenadiers rider Egan Bernal has abandoned the Tour. The 23-year-old Colombian had been in contention until losing over seven minutes on Sunday’s stage to the Grand Colombier and lost more time after finishing well down the field yesterday.
He had seemed in good spirits, however, at one point asking a team-mate who was on a fetch-and-carry mission to the team car for drinks to bring him back a mojito.
Bernal had voiced his intention to make it to Paris “out of respect for the race”, but his team announced this morning he would be taking no further part.
“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” said his sporting director, David 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, who began the race with a back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Critérium du Dauphiné last month, had played down the extent of his injury, but yesterday told reporters his knee was now affected.
“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,” he said. “I have the greatest respect for this race and I am already looking forward to coming back in the years ahead.”
Lennard Kämna won the stage, Primoz Roglic stayed in yellow and Ineos team boss David Brailsford claimed his decision to leave Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome out of his Tour de France team was a good one.
Primoz Roglic remains in the lead but is finding it difficult to shake off his young Slovenian compatriot Tadej Pogacar.
From William Fotheringhamn’s stage by stage guide: The toughest uphill finish of the race, 2,304m above sea level after 21.5km climbing, with gradients of 20%. The final pecking order should be all but settled here. The initial sort-out will come on the super-category Col de la Madeleine
. [Narrator’s voice: “Not any more, it doesn’t – first Mollema, now Bernal – the curse of Fotheringham strikes for the second consecutive day.”]
, and the finish has Bernal written all over it
- Today’s roll-out is at 11.15am (BST)