But Bernal has gradually slipped back on general classification, as Roglič has continued to dominate the Spanish Grand Tour in his characteristic style.
On stage 11, Roglič flourished yet again, taking his second victory of this year’s race, while Bernal lost a handful of second on the wall-like climb to Valdepeñas de Jaén.
Speaking after the stage, Bernal said: “I knew from day one that I wasn’t at my best level, and if you’re not at your best level it’s hard to win the race.
“My goal remains to give my best and we’ll keep trying.”
He added: “It’s very difficult to get to your best level overnight, that comes with months of preparation, but you have to keep calm and stay alert.”
Bernal’s performance in the race so far has been far from disastrous however, as he has confidently held position in the top-10 and has tried to minimise his losses to Roglič on the uphill finishes.
But it is not the dominant position we’ve seen from the Colombian star in the past, during his 2019 Tour de France victory and his comfortable win in the 2021 Giro.
With 10 stages remaining, Bernal now sits seventh overall, 4-46 off the race lead, but almost three minutes down to leader-in-waiting Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
On the punchy uphill finish on day 11, Bernal said: “The finish was really tough. The last meters were very difficult.”
“It must have been a nice stage to watch on television. It was important to be at the end of the front, but also to control your effort because the wall was long.”
Ineos have tried a dual-leadership approach in this year, backing Adam Yates and Bernal after Richard Carapaz quickly fell out of contention.
Yates has been slightly stronger than Bernal on many of the sharp uphill finishes in this Vuelta, but currently sits eighth overall, 11 seconds behind his team-mate.
The question now: do Ineos have the capability of clawing their way onto the podium in the final two weeks?
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