A long distance move by Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) on stage 17 of the Vuelta a España failed to work out for the Colombian, but it earned widespread praise for his courageous attempt to blow the race apart.
Launched 61 kilometres from the line, Bernal’s attack had something of the feel of former teammate Chris Froome’s bid for victory in the 2018 Giro d’Italia at the Colle delle Finestre.
However, the instant response by Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), who bridged across to the 2019 Tour de France winner, made it clear that Bernal would have a tough time outstripping the double defending champion.
And so it proved, as with 7.5km to go on the Lagos de Covadonga, Bernal began to buckle under Roglic’s incessantly strong pace at the front of the two-man attack.
With a look of rigid determination on his face, Bernal’s strength crumbled but did not crack completely as he stayed with the main chasing group and finished seventh on the stage.
Bernal is now 4:29 down in sixth overall, while his chances of final victory have almost completely evaporated, his gutsy move comes after two weeks in which he has visibly not been on top of his game.
“I had the legs, I had to try and that was it,” Bernal said afterwards. “The stage was a good one for this, and I went out to try and enjoy myself and do what I could.
“I took the initiative, but it was Primož who did a really good job. I was happy to be part of this winning for him because he was the brave one. I have to admire him because he had a lot to lose and I didn’t, and he started working with me to see what would happen.”
Bernal said that his attack had been sparked, too, by a dislike of “following wheels,” combined with taking advantage of his first really strong day on the bike in the race. And he refused to rule out further moves in the future, either by him or his teammate and fellow GC contender Adam Yates.
“During all this Vuelta it’s not been easy for me, but today I had good legs. We’ll see about tomorrow [Thursday], there’s also Yates who’s very strong. So we have to do what we can.”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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