Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) picked up five seconds on his Vuelta a España rivals when the peloton split in the finale of stage 13 in Villanueva de la Serena, but he downplayed the idea that it might be a portent for Saturday’s summit finish at Pico Villuercas.
The Colombian was well positioned near the front when the front end of the peloton broke apart in the final 3km on Friday and he came home 10th on the stage, six seconds down on winner Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and five ahead of the red jersey group.
“I didn't think there would be so much madness at the end, I just wanted to be well placed. With only 3km I felt it could split, I was in good position and that's when they said that the bunch broke up,” Bernal said afterwards. “I tried to look back but there was a rider behind me and I didn't know how many of us were in front. It was three kilometres and you had to go full throttle.”
Bernal remains in seventh place overall, 4:41 down on red jersey Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) and 2:45 behind defending champion and race favourite Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
“Being more than two minutes behind in GC, gaining five seconds on a flat stage isn’t a big deal,” said Bernal, who leads the young rider classification. “The good thing is that I got ahead, I did not fall and let's see how I am tomorrow.”
The Vuelta returns to the high mountains on Saturday with a tough category 1 summit finish at Pico Villuercas. Bernal struggled on the race’s last summit finish at Alto de Velefique, where Roglič and Enric Mas (Movistar) also gained significant time on his Ineos co-leader Adam Yates, who lies eighth at 4:57.
Since the start of this Vuelta, Bernal has repeatedly insisted that he was short of the form that carried him to Giro d’Italia victory in May and he struck a cautious note about his chances this weekend.
“Five seconds does not mean a lot, you have to be honest. And there can't be much change from one day to the next,” Bernal said. “I'm not going to fly tomorrow all of a sudden, I'll just try to do my best so that when I get home I will have the satisfaction that I gave it my all.”
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