As impressive as Egan Bernal’s wining ride in the uphill time trial was on stage 3, the sight of him lighting up the field on Les Collons during stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie was truly something to behold.
The 21-year-old had experienced riders in Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) scrambling for cover with at least three race-splitting attacks, each more impressive than the last. As so many rivals commented this week, Bernal is the real deal.
Unfortunately for the young Team Sky rider, the primary target for his aggression, Primoz Roglic (LottoNL Jumbo), held firm and eventually stole two seconds on the line to move his race lead out to eight seconds. With one stage remaining, the Slovenian is on course to seal the overall, but Bernal has once again shown that he is every bit a WorldTour star.
“I don’t know how many times I tried,” Bernal told Cyclingnews as he warmed down on the rollers after the stage.
“I gave my best and Primoz Roglic is a very good rider. He’s now stronger than me. I tried for my team because they did a good job for me. Now I’m happy because although I didn’t win I attacked a lot of times. That’s good for cycling.”
Only six seconds separated Roglic and Bernal ahead of the stage, and Team Sky began to set the pace on the penultimate climb. They lined out the bunch and then ensured that Jonathan Castroviejo laid the ground work for Bernal with an injection of pace. When Bernal made his first move Roglic responded, but the rest of GC contenders were not so lucky. Porte tried to move across but soon relented as Bernal and Roglic went by the remnants of the early break as if they were statues.
“I don’t know. I prefer not to think about that,” Bernal said with a smile when he was asked how close he thought he’d come to cracking Roglic. “But for sure I’m happy with this performance. I won the time trial and I’m second overall. That’s so good for me. I’m so happy because this is Team Sky and to be the leader at this team is so difficult.
"They have a lot of confidence in me, and I’m happy for that," Bernal continued. "It’s special because Castroviejo, Thomas, Pavel [Sivakov], and all the riders they’re all so strong. For me it’s crazy when I saw them at the start of the climb, and pushing hard for me I thought, ‘Wow I need to something on this climb because they’re really good riders and they’re riding for me'."
Bernal’s second and third attacks were all matched by Roglic, and on the descent to the line Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) attacked to win the stage. In the fight for bonus seconds, Roglic edged out Costa, with Bernal taking third. With one stage remaining Roglic should seal the overall win, but Bernal’s promising stock has certainly risen once more.
As he ended his cool-down he was asked about his Grand Tour ambitions. The Vuelta a Espana is certainly a possibility, but the young rider almost bashfully admitted that he would like to ride the Tour de France – although he acknowded that patience may be required on that front.
“After this I go home now and then I go to California. After that I don’t know,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I would like to do one [Grand Tour - ed.], maybe the Vuelta, but I’m not sure. There are a lot of good riders and it’s the start of the season, and the Vuelta is at the end. It’s difficult to maintain these performances, but I’d like to do one.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked about the Tour.
“I’d like to do it, but I don’t know about this year. It’s a very important race for the team, and for sure I’d like to do it but it’s…it’s difficult.”