Team Sky sport director Brett Lancaster says the team are ‘gutted’ after a week of work to get Egan Bernal onto the podium at the Volta a Catalunya was destroyed in a crash.
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21-year-old Bernal started the day just 16 seconds off overall race leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), but was brought down with around 7km or so to go after Valverde’s team-mate José Joaquin Rojas slid out on a white line in front of him.
Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) was also taken down by the crash on the stage, as Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) broke away for victory.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) moved up to take second overall after Bernal’s abandonment, while Frenchman Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale) was able to sneak in for third ahead of Yates thanks to a bonus second on the line for third place on the stage.
Team Sky have since reported that Bernal has had an “initial x-ray and will undergo further investigations on his shoulder” which he injured in the crash.
DS Lancaster says it wasn’t overly realistic to expect Bernal to overturn the deficit to Valverde on the 155km route around Barcelona, and while the team remain disappointed, it was encouraging to see the talented young Colombian could match more established racers during the week.
“Everyone is a little bit gutted. All the boys worked so hard, committed and rode themselves into the ground all week for him,” Lancaster said.
“To beat Valverde today I think we would have had our work cut out, but we would have been really happy with second place. Obviously that was all lost in the crash – but there was nothing Egan could have done.
“One thing we can take out of it, and we saw again today, was that it looked like Egan and Valverde were the strongest two in the race.
“No one else could follow Valverde when he moved, so you can see Egan is at that real elite level. It’s really promising for the future.”
Race winner Valverde said the he had seen motorbikes crash earlier in the race where his team-mate and Bernal came down on the descent, but sympathised with his rival on what was he described as “very dangerous course” thanks to the wet roads.
“They always say that a race is not won until the final finish line is crossed, and it was a really nervous, fast stage today, where we had no respite,” Valverde said.
“The roads were always a little bit wet, with some light rain falling over the final circuit – that made for a very dangerous course, worse than usual. We saw two motorbikes from the organisers and TV crashing, and later on, my team-mate José Joaquín Rojas went down together with Bernal at a point where one of those motors might have left some oil from its crash.
“It’s really sad to see what happened to Egan… He’s a talented guy, with lots of future and already some big results to his name – I just hope he recovers well and quickly, as well him as my team-mate José Joaquín.”