Egan Bernal has cast doubts on his possibilities of finishing on the podium saying that he is in "survival mode" for the last two stages of the Vuelta a España 2021.
The Ineos Grenadiers leader went on a 61km attack with leader of the race Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) on stage 17 and has looked like he is coming into the top form he's previously shown at Grand Tours.
However, as he slowly climbs through the standings, he has spoken out about how he has struggled since the attack and is doubtful that he'll make the podium currently held by Roglič and the Movistar duo of Enric Mas and Miguel Ángel López almost two minutes ahead of Bernal in fifth.
After stage 19, which turned into an unexpectedly brutal day for the peloton as they chased the breakaway, Bernal doubted his chances of standing on the podium come Sunday.
"I haven't even thought about my podium options," Bernal said, "it's very complicated, I don’t think I can make it.
"Yesterday [stage 18] we paid a bit for the day we attacked 60 km from the finish line with Roglič, I think it showed, and even more today. It was not an easy day even though it was a stage for the sprint. It was almost 100 km going up. If I had legs I would attack, but I think I'm in a survival mode."
Bernal finished in 24th place on stage 19 after being placed well in the peloton by his team-mate Tom Pidcock. He sits at 4-43 from Roglič in the overall standings but 1-59 from López in third with Bahrain Victorious' Jack Haig between the two.
"It was a very tough stage. I felt like it was going up all day," continued the reigning Giro d'Italia champion.
"The last part was faster, but there was a lot of wear. Everyone in the peloton was in a hurry, we were going very fast. Tomorrow is about surviving."
Stage 20 is another day for the climbers, albeit at a much lower altitude with the highest climb of the day just nudging over 600 metres.
However, with five categorised climbs along with several uncategorised ones it should be another day of suffering over the 202.2km from Sanxenxo to Mos. Castro de Herville.
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