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Egan Bernal relieved and in white jersey after frantic day at Tour de France

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) recognised that Friday’s echelon-filled stage 7 of the Tour de France made for a very fraught day at the office, but the Colombian argued that it was an opportunity that his team could not let pass by.

There were shades of last year’s stage prior to the Pyrenees, which also saw some big splits, as Bernal and his teammates helped forced an echelon in the last hour of racing. 

However, what had preceded the mass attack on the front - with the race in pieces from the  first climb onwards - made for a very different kind of backdrop to the British team’s manouevre.

As Bernal, now in the white jersey of Best Young Rider after Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) lost over a minute pointed out, "Tours are not won on days like this, but we have to make the most of this kind of terrain.

"It was a very fast stage, we thought there would be tension, but never as much as that. We never stopped all day.

"Finally we had an opportunity to split the groups, and we did it, so that's good. The team did a great job and we were up there right until the end.

"I thought it was going to be hard, but from the first climb onwards we had to be in the front and then things broke up."

Eighth on the stage, Bernal has now moved up a spot on GC and will be lying fourth overall, 13 seconds down, as the race goes into the Pyrenees tomorrow. But despite his stronger position, there will be no change in his relatively conservative strategy, he insisted.

"There are two very complicated stages coming up and we'll have to try not to lose time, as before, and take what opportunities we can.

"I will be honoured to wear the white jersey again" - which he won, together with yellow back in 2019 - "and I will defend it, but there is still a long way to go."

There was a downside again for Ineos on stage 7, as Richard Carapaz punctured at a critical moment late on and despite all Jonathan Castroviejo's best efforts, the Ecuadorian lost 81 seconds. Combined with the 28 seconds he lost on the Orcieres-Merlette stage, the 2019 Giro d'Italia winner is now over two minutes down on race leader Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).

Asked which of the two stages he knew the best in the Pyrenees, Bernal said that Saturday's had some familiar climbs from the time he spent in the area during the Route d'Occitanie - which he won - and that he knew the Peyresourde, the last climb on stage 8, from two years ago in the Tour.

"It will all be very hard for the overall contenders," he argued. "and we'll feel today's stage tomorrow in our legs, that's for sure."