Geraint Thomas gave Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal the freedom to attack on the Galibier stage of the 2019 Tour de France. He did and gained 32 seconds to move ahead of Thomas, the 2018 race winner.
Colombian Bernal, just 22, leaped ahead of Thomas to second place at 1-30. Thomas sits in third now at five seconds behind.
“It was G’s decision,” Bernal said.
“He asked me how I was feeling, I said, ‘I’m feeling really good.’ So he asked me to attack to try to move the race and he tried to come with me but when he saw the other guys on his wheel he just stayed with them. But I attacked because he asked me to attack.”
Bernal attacked near the top of the Galibier, three kilometres from the finish. Soon after, Thomas attacked and Alaphilippe began to fade.
Ineos’s new star rode free over the summit at 2,622 metres and raced the 19.5km to Valloire. He held off the GC group, which caught Thomas and now had Alaphilippe. And for Bernal, riding his second Tour, the tactics were good.
“I think that yes, we need to gain time on Julian Alaphilippe, I don’t think about G. In the final he is my team-mate, we need to gain time in Julian Alaphilippe,” Bernal added.
“You never know how are the other guys and if you try to do the race hard at the same point Julian Alaphilippe can drop and it’s on. I think that we did a really good race today.”
Ineos has the advantage of two men in a tight six-way battle for the 2019 title. Only two more testing days remaining, both Alpine summit finishes: stage 19 to Tignes and stage 20 to Val Thorens.
Behind Thomas, Dutchman Kruijswijk sits at 12 seconds.
“I think that for the team, I’m second in GC, Thomas is third, but just five seconds to me. We’re in a really, really good position. We will see how Julian Alaphilippe is tomorrow, today he was really strong so we will see,” said Bernal.
“I don’t [if we can drop him], we need to see what happens but Julian Alaphilippe is really strong, we will need to see how is he tomorrow and after tomorrow, but if he continues like today and the other days it will be really difficult.”