It was a day to forget for Ineos at the Tour de France 2019, and how many times has anyone been able to say that over the past seven Tours de France, when the British squad have taken home six yellow jerseys?
Despite race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) hanging onto the group of favourites up the Tourmalet, it was looking to be a good day as Ineos’ Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal approached the summit finish line alongside Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) amongst others.
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However, as the front group passed under the 1km to go banner, Thomas dropped off the back of the group, as Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) increased the pace after David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) had softened the group up fro Pinot.
Thomas didn’t panic and try to jump back on, instead opting to ride his own pace and gradually limit his losses, a decision only an experienced head could make that could prove pivotal when the GC order is decided come stage 21 on the Champs-Élysées.
Thomas lost 36 seconds to Alaphilippe, after the Frenchman finished second and picked up bonus seconds on the line. Egan Bernal finished with the front group, only losing two seconds to Alaphilippe and eight seconds to Pinot, who took the stage win.
“What happened today is a big surprise for many,” Egan Bernal said after the finish, “it was the first day of the pure battle for the overall with big climbs. Personally I felt well and that makes me happy.”
Although Bernal performed well, and saw him rise up the the GC to fourth, finding himself three minutes behind Alaphilippe and back in the white jersey after Enric Mas (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) lost time, he admitted Thomas had had a bad day. Interestingly, Bernal was given orders not to wait for the Welshman, as Ineos look to protect their two-pronged assault on the overall classification.
“As a team, Geraint Thomas has lost some time and that’s not good. I was available to help him but through the radio, they told me to not wait for him. We all have a bad day at the Tour de France, yesterday was mine,” he said.
One bad day won’t be enough for Bernal to lose faith in his team-mate and defending champion, though, saying he won’t go against instructions from his team and will work to support Thomas’ GC ambitions if asked to.
“I don’t know if we can win the Tour de France,” Bernal said, “I know that the defending champion is my team-mate. I won’t go against the instructions of my team. If I’m asked to help, I will do. If I’m given freedom, I’ll try to make the best of it.”