Egan Bernal has withdrawn from the Tour de France 2020.
The defending champion fell out of contention for the overall classification after being dropped by his rivals on the Grand Colombier on stage 15.
After the rest day, the Ineos rider also found himself losing time on stage 16, dealing with both a recurring sore back as well as an issue with his knee. He eventually finished the stage over 27 minutes down on the stage and slipped to over 19 minutes behind Primož Roglič on GC.
“This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that it is the right decision for me in the circumstances,” the defending champion said. “I have the greatest respect for this race and I am already looking forward to coming back in the years ahead.”
Bernal will now focus on recovering from the Tour and reset his goals for the remainder of the season.
“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” team boss Dave Brailsford said. “Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”
On Tuesday, Ineos Grenadiers boss defended his Tour selection, which saw him leave out 2018 champion Geraint Thomas – who will now go to the Giro d’Italia – and four-time champion Chris Froome – who will now target the Vuelta a España. The British team have looked far from their usual level at the Tour, with Jumbo-Visma the team to take control of the peloton and dictate the pace of the race.
“I don’t gamble. People are entitled to their opinions, but I didn’t gamble with selection. They were big decisions. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I’m sure that people have a lot to say but they’re not privy to the facts that I’ve got,” Brailsford said on team selection.
“[Egan] can 100 per cent come back from this and I’ve seen it a lot with big Olympic champions when they first win at the Olympics and in sport sometimes you need to lose and then you can go again.”
Ineos will now focus on trying to rescue their Tour with a stage win in the final week. Richard Carapaz came close on stage 16 after making it into the day’s key breakaway, but could do nothing to stop Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) going clear on the penultimate climb to take victory.
The Tour heads into its queen stage on stage 17, with a summit finish to the highest point of the race at the top of the Col de la Loze.