Egan Bernal’s defense of the Tour de France was reduced to cinders on Sunday as the Colombian suffered a meltdown on the first major mountain of the race, while overall leader Primoz Roglic denied any suggestions that he was doping.
With three massive mountains, the stage itself was won by 21-year-old rookie Tadej Pogacar, but the extent of the reigning champion’s astonishing collapse on the final climb is the story of the Tour so far.
“I lost three years of my life on that climb, I gave it everything, but I just couldn’t keep up,” Bernal said.
Team Jumbo-Visma’s Roglic retained the overall lead after the concluding 17km ascent of the Grand Colombier, which he ascended with four teammates.
Ineos Grenadiers captain Bernal slipped to 8 minutes, 25 seconds behind the yellow jersey in 13th place.
Ineos, formerly Team Sky, have won seven of the past eight Tours, led by such luminaries as Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, and this year’s jaw-dropping defeat marks something of a turning point for the British team.
Dutch team Jumbo led the peloton up the Grand Colombier’s demanding climb in their yellow and black outfits with a relentless high tempo, but Roglic brushed off any suspicions of doping from the media.
“At 6am this morning I had a complete doping control, and just had another one right now,” Roglic said, looking flabbergasted when asked. “There is nothing to hide from my side. You can definitely trust me.”
Third on the day behind Australian Richie Porte, Roglic attacked first, but his 21-year-old compatriot had the edge over the final 50m.
“Unfortunately, I was a bit short on the last climb, but it was a great day for us,” Roglic said.
Roglic leads Pogacar by 40 seconds with six stages remaining, with Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran of Education First in third at 1:34, while Miguel Angel Lopez and Adam Yates round out the top five.
Pogacar said that he had bided his time and just kept up.
“I need to be conservative, the perfect scenario would have been to take the yellow jersey, but we live in the real world. I don’t know what happened to Bernal, but Jumbo set a terrible pace and some riders paid for it,” the UAE Team Emirates leader said.
Another casualty was Nairo Quintana, who also dropped out of the running for the overall lead.
“It was hot and all three climbs were really hard,” Pogacar added.
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