Enos Grenadier announced Wednesday that Tour de France champion Egan Bernal has withdrawn from the race ahead of a massive stage in the Alps.
Bernal has been fighting since last weekend in the Jura Mountains, falling more than seven minutes past the two main contenders and knocking out the competition. Due to back pain, the 23-year-old rider lost more time during the first stage of the Alps on Tuesday.
Bernal finished 16th overall, 19 minutes and four seconds behind race leader Primoz Roglic.
“This is clearly not the way I wanted the Tour of France to end,” Bernal said, “but I agree that it was the right decision for me under the circumstances.” “I have a lot of respect for this race and I’m really looking forward to going back in the coming years.”
Last year, Bernal became the first Colombian to win the tour, and the youngest champion of the post-WWII era. His team said Bernal would try to recover as quickly as possible and redefine his goals for the rest of the season.
“We made this decision with Egan’s best interests in mind,” said Dave Brailsford, Director of Ineos. “Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he’s also a young racer, and many rounds stand before him.”
Bernal’s withdrawal marked the end of Ineus’ dominance in cycling’s biggest event. Their successful period began in 2012 with a victory for Bradley Wiggins when they named the team Team Sky. The team has won seven of the last eight editions with four different riders, but the best contestant of the year is Richard Carabaz, who finished 14th in Stage 17 on Wednesday.
The trip is arguably the hardest, with Col de La Madeleine and Col de La Loze, the highest point of the tour this year, at 2,304 meters. The traffic-free trail between the ski resorts of Meribel and Courchevel was opened to cyclists this year after local authorities paved a trail in the forest. The last six kilometers of climb are particularly challenging, with steep sections and sharp turns.
More Tour de France coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/TourdeFrance and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports