Egan Bernal appeared slightly upset when he arrived at the Team Sky van following stage 5 at the Tour Colombia 2.1, where he slipped from sixth overall to ninth and lost another 43 seconds to the current race leader and is now 1:05 behind.
The 22-year-old Colombian's family was waiting for him and appeared to offer condolences as his hopes for repeating his 2018 Oro y Paz title looked quite a bit dimmer. His younger brother crying, and Bernal provided a hug and wiped away the tears from his face.
But appearances can be deceiving, and all is not lost for Team Sky. Ivan Sosa made the dangerous breakaway on stage 5 and finished fifth, six seconds behind stage winner and new race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep). He is currently fourth overall at 29 seconds with the final summit finish to Las Palmas remaining.
Even with Sosa up the road, Team Sky chased furiously to keep the move in check but did not pull the escapees back before the finish. It called into question the team's tactics and whether they put too many eggs in Sosa's basket.
"I think what we're doing is very easy to look at from the outside and kind of just see one race and think, 'OK, that's the break, that's your leader, and that's how we're going to play the day,'" Team Sky assistant director Ollie Cookson told Cyclngnews before the start of stage 6.
"But as you may have seen Sky or [director Nicolas Portal) work in the past, there's obviously parallel races at the same time. So we wanted to keep our options close for today."
Cookson said the team's tactics on stage 5 actually were taking a long view of the early season race, looking beyond seeking a top result in the general classification here.
"This is a great race and really important to us, but we've got really big objectives with the team, with Egan for the rest of the year as well as with Froomey, so I think this whole group of young riders is learning how to race together in different scenarios: what happens when, how to use your energy, when to hold back, when to go," he said.
"They've been racing together five days only so far this year, so it’s all about developing this young group, using the experience and guidance of Froomey, Castroviejo and obviously Nico in the car, and I think that was kind of the idea yesterday."
Cookson said the objective of chasing the stage 5 breakaway – which included Alaphilippe, Óscar Sevilla (Team Medellin), Rodrigo Contreras (Astana), Winner Anacona (Movistar), Dani Martinez (EF Education First), Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and Edward Beltran (Team Medellin), among others – was to keep the move close and Bernal in the GC hunt while letting Sosa have his chance.
"We know how well Ivan is going and we know how Egan is going, so we actually put ourselves in a good position. It's very hard to understand from the TV, but internally we had a plan," Cookson said.
"At the end of the day we weren't sure at the start how the moves were going to go, and once Alaphilippe and Dani Martinez were in that move, Ivan was straight there, so chapeau to him," Cookson said. "The way he rode, you know sometimes we've missed a bit of race radio information at this race, but I think Ivan showed that along with Dani and [Astana’s Miguel Angel] Lopez, he's one of the strongest riders in the race."
The final 173.8km stage finishes atop the category 1 Alto las Palmas, which climbs 933 metres over 15.5km. It will be the final chance for Bernal or Sosa to keep the Colombia title on Team Sky's mantle.
"[Stage 5] really opened the race up yesterday and sorted the GC out a little, but actually it's still very close today with five or six guys," Cookson said. "It’s going to be interesting because you start down low in Medellin and then you come up to altitude, so it's going to be a special race."
Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome also had a dramatic stage 5 after being caught behind a crash just 2km into the race on the opening descent. Froome was never able to get back on terms with the main peloton and ended up finishing with a large group that came in more than 30 minutes behind the winner. He's currently 90th overall, 34:36 back.
"He actually didn't go down yesterday, but he got caught in a couple of crashes and then because of that he ended up with a broken bike, and we had to change bikes," Cookson said. "Once you do that a couple of times, and the way the race was yesterday compared to the days, it was just tough.
"He's also got huge objectives coming later in the year, so all good with Chris."
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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