Egan Bernal's defence of his Tour de France title took a hit on Friday on the steep, unrelenting grades of the final kilometres of the Puy Mary on stage 13, with the Ineos rider conceding 38 seconds to race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
The Colombian also lost ground on Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who finished alongside his compatriot Roglič and moved into second place overall.
Bernal's Tour hopes are not yet over, however, as he remains within one minute of Roglič – 59 seconds, to be precise – and there was no deficit in his power numbers.
"I felt good, actually. I tried to do my best but they were stronger than me. I could do nothing, but actually I was feeling good the whole day. We need to see what will happen in the next days," Bernal told ITV afterwards.
"I’m looking at my numbers and I’m doing some of my best numbers. If the others are stronger, I can do nothing. I don’t know, we will see what happens."
It's the second time a general classification contender has remarked on the high level of the top riders in this late-season Tour de France. "I'm doing performances that I've never done in the past," AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet had said after the Pyrenees. "I'm breaking records, so the form is very good, but the level is just ultra-high."
Bernal and his Ineos teammates can look forward to a different kind of test on Sunday when the race has its first long, high-altitude summit finale on the Col du Grand Colombier.
Prior to Friday, Bernal's deficit to Roglič had been made up entirely of time bonuses, but he was not giving up hope after failing to finish in the same group as the Slovenian for the first time on this Tour.
"From now on I will look at it day by day. We must continue to focus and manage our efforts. In any case, I'm not giving up. We have to keep morale high and do our best," Bernal said.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.