Egan Bernal (Team Sky) claimed his maiden WorldTour win with an impressive ride in the mountain time trial on stage 3 of the Tour de Romandie. The Colombian set a time of 25:10 over the 9.9km course, and pushed race leader Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) into second place, four seconds down.
The win moved Bernal into second overall, and the 21-year-old sits just six seconds off Roglic's lead with two stages remaining. Saturday's stage will decide the overall standings, and while the 149km effort that starts and finishes in Sion lacks a summit finish, it represents the last opportunity to rattle Roglic.
Stage 4 includes five major climbs, although the final summit comes almost 30 kilometres from the finish. The chance of creating significant gaps before the finish is slim, with Roglic stating that he expects riders to come back after the final climb. Bernal has already exceeded expectations this year, but the inevitable question is whether he will look to dislodge Roglic or settle for a place on the podium. As the Colombian explained after today's stage, the situation was far more complex than just a straight fight between the current top two.
"I'd like to attack but it depends on a lot of things," Bernal told Cyclingnews as he strolled out of the press conference.
"I hope to feel good, and if I feel good I'll try something but after such a hard stage, tomorrow could be difficult for me too. Just to be second on GC could be difficult for me so it depends on a lot of things.
"I think we'll look at the situation and make some plans but Roglic is in great condition. He won Pais Vasco and this course suits him. He climbs, he time trials, he's a complete rider. It'll be hard but there's no pressure. Now I've won a stage. I've already done a great race. If I abandon tomorrow it's not a problem."
Bernal's overall form has been nothing short of incredible. He finished sixth in his WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under, before following that up with two wins in his native Colombia. He was lying second overall on the final stage at the Volta a Catalunya until a crash took him out. The last few weeks saw him return home and although he needed time off the bike to recover from a fractured shoulder, he has still held his early season form in impressive fashion and it showed with the consistent effort he produced on Friday.
"I wanted to start strong and finish strong, with the same power all the way up the climb. I remained calm, and keeping the same power from the start was difficult, but I could it, and I'm happy with that," he told Cyclingnews just after crossing the line today.
"I'm in good condition but after my crash, I got back on the rollers after three days. I did that for two weeks and that was good for me. I was in form at Catalunya and I was still able to train well.
"I didn't think I'd come back to this level so quickly. There was a lot of hard work done by the team, by the medical staff so for them, it's also a victory."