Colombian Egan Bernal (Ineos) is confident in his climbing abilities, he just wants to limit his losses in the time trial on Friday in order to have a chance in the Tour de France overall.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) leads the race by 1-12 minutes, while Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour winner, sits on top of the list of race favourites. Bernal trails by four seconds, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) 15 and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 33.
“We are going to keep racing the same way, and then we will see where things stand after the time trial. We’ll see how things stand. We have to stay focused on every moment,” the 22-year-old explained.
“The time trials are important and I am going to lose time, so it’s a question of trying to limit my losses. The specialists will take time on me. We are going to try to do the best we can.”
Bernal won the Tour of California in 2018 and earned a spot to help Thomas and Chris Froome in the Tour de France at just 21 years old. This year, after winning the Tour de Suisse, he leads the Ineos team with Thomas.
“This year I am a little more confident. Last year everything was new for me and I was a little bit scared,” he explained. “Now I know what’s ahead of me. I am well-supported by the team and this gives me even more confidence.”
He feels at home in the high mountains, which is good with all the passes to come in the Pyrénées and Alps, but the 27.2km time trial in Pau could take the edge off his Tour thrust.
The stage comes ahead off two summit finish stages on Saturday and Sunday. After Sunday, it will be clearer if Bernal is leading the team or Thomas. For now, they are in a “good position” ahead of their rivals.
“After 10 days of the race, we are in good position. We are taking responsibility in the race. We will see how Alaphilippe reacts in the coming stages,” Bernal said.
“We don’t know how far Alaphilippe can go. We’ve never seen him fight for the GC during three weeks. We’ll see how things stand after the time trial, he’s spent a lot of energy so far in the first half of the Tour. You cannot discount him because he is a quality rider.”
Alaphilippe won the Tour of California in 2016 and the Tour of Britain in 2018, but never competed for a Grand Tour overall. His goal was just to wear the yellow jersey, not to do so all the way to Paris.
Things, however, may have changed. Many believe he will be dealt with in the mountains coming on he horizon as the Tour heads southwest.
“Now the mountains are coming up, and they will be the hardest stages still ahead of us,” Bernal continued.
“We have to be happy with how the first 10 days have gone. They’ve been very hard, so to be second and third overall, now we are in ideal position to see how things turn out.
“The most important thing is not that I win or Geraint Thomas wins, but that Ineos wins. We have that very clear. There’s no jealousy. We have to win the Tour.”