Egan Bernal shows his promise once more
Young Colombian Egan Bernal will have rued his missed opportunity after being ruled out of the Giro d’Italia 2019 due to a broken collarbone suffered in a training ride, and at the Tour de Suisse he showed what could have been.
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Bernal eased to victory in Switzerland, and with the previously unknown Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz (Movistar) winning the Italian Grand Tour weeks earlier, the young Colombian would have more than likely been up near the business end of the Giro general classification.
The 22-year-old won the seventh stage, sailing away to the summit finish ahead of the field and also rode an impressive time trial, only losing 19 seconds to world time trial champion Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) who was his main rival over the nine-day stage race.
Following his 2018 Tour de France spent chaperoning Geraint Thomas to the Champs-Élysées in yellow as well as his victory at Paris-Nice this year, the Tour de Suisse was yet another marker of Bernal’s ability, with many saying it’s only a matter of time before the Colombian adds a Grand Tour victory to his palmarès. Speaking of which…
Geraint Thomas crash provides further headache for Team Ineos
Of course, Geraint Thomas crashing out of the race would have worried his Ineos team, having already lost one of their Tour winners Chris Froome to a horrific pre-Tour crash, but his abandonment of the race threw up other headaches alongside the one Thomas suffered when he hit the deck on stage four.
As defending champion, Thomas will of course take outright leadership responsibilities following Froome’s absence but with the Welshman leaving the race before the route headed uphill, we will only be able to guess as to his form until he’s on the first mountain climbs of the Tour.
Last year Sky found themselves with two riders capable of winning the Tour, this year they will find themselves in a similar position. This time around they will once again have to hope they’re backing the right horse and be able to replicate the achievement of two podium finishes in 2018.
Hugh Carthy administers dose of national pride
To an audience bored to tears of hearing the same daily “we’ll take each day as it comes” soundbites throughout a Grand Tour, Hugh Carthy was a breath of fresh air at the Giro d’Italia. It was endearing to hear his honest reactions when he was on his knees at the end of stages, as well as see him choosing to attack off the front and animate the race rather than “wheel-sucking” – something often seen by the other contenders for the overall at the Giro.
His final 11th place at the Giro was an impressive achievement, but the Brit outdid this on the final day of the Tour de Suisse, attacking off the front for basically the whole stage and taking his first ever WorldTour win. In his post-race interview he said that two days previously he was sick of riding his bike and was just thinking about getting to the end and going off on holiday. The Prestonian refreshingly honest as ever.
It wasn’t just any stage, though, it was the queen stage of the race, with three HC-category climbs standing between Carthy and the victory.
The Brit was first over all of them, snatching the king of the mountains classification without a summit to spare, as well as fending off Bernal and Dennis as they battled it out in the closing kilometres, finishing a minute ahead of the leading GC duo.
Bahrain-Merida looking good for the Tour
Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) came within 19 seconds of the biggest stage race victory of his career so far. Despite maybe not capitalising on the flat time trial as much as he could have – the world time trial champion only clawed back 19 seconds on eventual winner Egan Bernal (Ineos) – he didn’t go down without a fight.
The Australian struck out as the kilometres ticked down on the final stage nine, with Bernal comfortably taking his wheel and letting Dennis drag him to the finish line.
However, along with team-mate Domenico Pozzovivo dropping Bernal’s wheel on stage seven, aware he needed to protect Dennis and get him to the summit, Bahrain-Merida are showing they are coming of age, having only began life in 2017.
Maybe they’ll be able to achieve their first major victory at July’s Tour de France with Vincenzo Nibali, especially with a reduced GC field, but with Rod Ellingworth set to revitalise the team next season and big name transfers such as Mikel Landa (Movistar) on the horizon as well as motorsport giant McLaren now taking a 50 per cent stake in the outfit, the future looks exceptionally bright for the team.
Peter Sagan is back
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) secured his eighth black jersey by winning the points classification, a sure marker that the Slovakian is back in form in time for the Tour.
The three-time world champion won the peloton’s bunch sprint on stage two, as Luis León Sánchez (Astana) hit out to take a solo breakaway win, in what turned out to be a dress rehearsal for his own victory on stage three. He then recorded a third and second place finish on the next two stages, as Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) won both.
Pure sprinters beating Sagan in bunch finishes is nothing new, but the Tour de Suisse showed Sagan was back to what he does best, consistently sweeping up points and laying siege to the sprint classification.
After only two victories so far in 2019, one apiece at the Tour Down Under and the Tour of California having been struck down by illness in the first few months of the year, it looks like we will see the Sagan we’ve grown to expect at the Tour, clad in green and treating post-race interviews as nothing more than his plaything.