Egan Bernal might have suffered a blow to his hopes of defending his Tour de France title on the Puy Mary on Saturday, but he looked to get straight back onto the front foot with an attack on the punchy final climb in Lyon on stage 14.
Bernal had dragged himself to the top of the Puy Mary 38 seconds down on race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who bumped him down from second place and divested him of the white jersey as best young rider.
Finding himself 59 seconds down overall and with momentum against him, the Colombian attempted to reignite his challenge on Saturday, even if the terrain didn’t appear conducive to gaps between the overall contenders. On the second of two 1.4km climbs in the finale of a hilly stage to Lyon, Bernal sprang off the front after Julian Alaphilippe had gone on the attack. The move didn’t last long but he felt it was good for morale, nevertheless.
"In the finale, I think everyone was on the limit. It was not the plan but on the last climb I just felt good and I tried," Bernal explained.
"To be honest, I didn’t think too much about the attack - I just went. I enjoyed it, and I think I needed it. I need to enjoy the race, and I really enjoyed the last part of the race."
Although Bora-Hansgrohe set a strong tempo for much of the day, Roglič’s Jumbo-Visma men were never far from the front of the peloton, and they quickly accelerated to bring Bernal to heel.
"It was unbelievable what the men did and how quickly they responded to Bernal's attack," said Roglič.
Wout Van Aert, who was there protecting Roglič rather than trying to win a stage he could feasibly have won, was present and correct, though it was Tom Dumoulin who appeared to be the chief policeman.
"It was a tough finale with many obstacles. It was very hectic, but you know that with a finish in a city like Lyon. It was important to stay sharp all day and to ride in front. It was all hands on deck for the squad. You would punch yourself in the head if you were in 10th position when Bernal went. The team immediately acted well there," Van Aert said.
"As a team, we have to stay sharp every day. After all, you never know when someone will attack. Just look at Bernal. We did not expect him, but he is a winner who will not give up and tries to take every opportunity. We are happy that Primož got through the stage unscathed and without wasting time."
Bernal did not mind that his bullet didn’t land in Lyon, and now sets his sights on Sunday’s summit finish on the Grand Colombier, before the second rest day makes way for the high Alps in the final week.
"It was a hard stage. On the first climb, Bora were pulling full gas for Sagan, trying to drop Sam Bennett. Finally he was dropped and the whole stage was really hard, just for the green jersey," he said.
"We need to stay focused, we need to fight until Paris. And here wee are, in the Tour de France, and one stage less."
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