Tour de France verdict: The Ineos post-mortem can wait, but Egan Bernal’s reign as champion is over

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Slovenian rivals Primoz Roglic [Jumbo-Visma] and Tadej Pogacar [UAE Team Emirates] finished the stage with a dramatic two-up sprint - Tour de France verdict: Team Jumbo-Visma's devastating Stage 15 display ends Egan Bernal's reign as champion - SHUTTERSTOCKSlovenian rivals Primoz Roglic [Jumbo-Visma] and Tadej Pogacar [UAE Team Emirates] finished the stage with a dramatic two-up sprint - Tour de France verdict: Team Jumbo-Visma's devastating Stage 15 display ends Egan Bernal's reign as champion - SHUTTERSTOCK

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Slovenian rivals Primoz Roglic [Jumbo-Visma] and Tadej Pogacar [UAE Team Emirates] finished the stage with a dramatic two-up sprint – Tour de France verdict: Team Jumbo-Visma’s devastating Stage 15 display ends Egan Bernal’s reign as champion – SHUTTERSTOCK
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="It was meant to be the day Egan Bernal came roaring back into yellow jersey contention. Back in terrain which he preferred. Not quite the Alps, with its high altitude passes suited to a man born at 2640m. But a&nbsp;long summit finish, at least, featuring a gentler, more consistent average gradient than Friday’s leg-burner in the Auvergne where Bernal shipped over half a minute to Slovenian rivals Primoz Roglic [Jumbo-Visma] and Tadej Pogacar [UAE Team Emirates].” data-reactid=”26″>It was meant to be the day Egan Bernal came roaring back into yellow jersey contention. Back in terrain which he preferred. Not quite the Alps, with its high altitude passes suited to a man born at 2640m. But a long summit finish, at least, featuring a gentler, more consistent average gradient than Friday’s leg-burner in the Auvergne where Bernal shipped over half a minute to Slovenian rivals Primoz Roglic [Jumbo-Visma] and Tadej Pogacar [UAE Team Emirates].

As it turned out, Bernal’s labours last Friday were a warning sign. When he wakes up on Monday, on the Tour’s second rest day, the 23 year-old will have to reflect on the fact that his reign as champion is over. 

A quite devastating performance from Team Jumbo-Visma on Stage 15 on Sunday put Ineos Grenadiers, and Bernal in particular, to the sword, doing to the British superteam what they have done to so many others in the last few years. Jumbo, with numbers on the front, set a searing tempo on the final HC ascent of the Grand Colombier, and Bernal could not hack it. Not even close. He cracked 13km from the top, and despite team-mates Michal Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Castroviejo trying to pace him back, he laboured up the rest of the climb, finishing over seven minutes down on the stage winner Pogacar, who beat compatriot Roglic in a dramatic two-up sprint for the line. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Pogacar’s second stage win of the race, and the 10 bonus seconds he picked up for his efforts, reduced his deficit to the race leader to just 40 seconds.&nbsp;It looks like being a two-way battle for yellow now, with Saturday's time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles an intriguing final battleground given their respective TT skills,&nbsp;although Wednesday’s Queen stage in the Alps, from Grenoble to Meribel by way of the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Loze, may yet have a say. Anyone caught having a jour sans that day is toast.” data-reactid=”29″>Pogacar’s second stage win of the race, and the 10 bonus seconds he picked up for his efforts, reduced his deficit to the race leader to just 40 seconds. It looks like being a two-way battle for yellow now, with Saturday’s time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles an intriguing final battleground given their respective TT skills, although Wednesday’s Queen stage in the Alps, from Grenoble to Meribel by way of the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Loze, may yet have a say. Anyone caught having a jour sans that day is toast.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="A handful of riders are still standing up to Jumbo. Rigoberto Uran [EF Pro Cycling] and Miguel Angel Lopez [Astana]&nbsp;are both within two minutes of the yellow jersey. Even Adam Yates [Mitchelton-Scott], who spent four days in the maillot jaune in week one, is hanging in there. Yates’s form seems to be improving. He tried to attack on Sunday, clipping off the front of the yellow jersey group 7km from the summit, in a bold bid for glory. But he was reeled in by the Jumbo machine.&nbsp;&nbsp;” data-reactid=”34″>A handful of riders are still standing up to Jumbo. Rigoberto Uran [EF Pro Cycling] and Miguel Angel Lopez [Astana] are both within two minutes of the yellow jersey. Even Adam Yates [Mitchelton-Scott], who spent four days in the maillot jaune in week one, is hanging in there. Yates’s form seems to be improving. He tried to attack on Sunday, clipping off the front of the yellow jersey group 7km from the summit, in a bold bid for glory. But he was reeled in by the Jumbo machine.  

“I wanted to try something before the rest day,” explained Yates, who is now 2min03sec in arrears. “I’m getting better day by day. I didn’t want it to come down to the last 1km or 2km. Because in previous days I kind of waited and then suffered just holding the wheel. But Jumbo weren’t happy with me doing that so they rode me back.”

Did they ever. Wout van Aert, MVP of the Tour so far, rode almost 8km on the front before swinging over, his devastating turn enough to kill off the GC ambitions of both Bernal and Nairo Quintana [Arkea-Samsic]. Even after his exertions, Van Aert was able to compose himself and ride in with the Bernal group. It almost felt as if he was trolling Ineos. Then Tom Dumoulin, a former Giro d’Italia champion, took over. It was Dumoulin who shut down Yates’s attack.

It was an incredible show of strength. And it left Ineos’s Tour in tatters. Some wondered whether Bernal’s back injury, which forced him out of last month’s Criterium du Dauphine, might have been a factor. If it was, Bernal did not reach for it. “I lost three years of my life today,” he said. “The back is no excuse. The team are going to have to reconsider our objectives for this final week.” Everyone is. Pog-Rog are making heavy metal.

Colombian rider Egan Bernal (C) of the Ineos Grenadiers team crosses the finish line of the 15th stage of the Tour de France over 174.5km from Lyon to Grand Colombier, France - SHUTTERSTOCKColombian rider Egan Bernal (C) of the Ineos Grenadiers team crosses the finish line of the 15th stage of the Tour de France over 174.5km from Lyon to Grand Colombier, France - SHUTTERSTOCK

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Colombian rider Egan Bernal (C) of the Ineos Grenadiers team crosses the finish line of the 15th stage of the Tour de France over 174.5km from Lyon to Grand Colombier, France – SHUTTERSTOCK
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The post-mortem will be harsh. As the richest team in the sport, Ineos have no excuses. Should they have brought Geraint Thomas, who sits third overall behind fellow Briton Simon Yates at Tirreno-Adriatico with one day of that race remaining? Might they even have considered Chris Froome, who told Eurosport on Sunday he felt he could have “done a job” here despite not being in shape to challenge for yellow? Is Sean Yates right about their DS leadership structure being muddled? Why do so many of their riders&nbsp;seem to be below-par? Did the coaching staff get their periodisation wrong?” data-reactid=”62″>The post-mortem will be harsh. As the richest team in the sport, Ineos have no excuses. Should they have brought Geraint Thomas, who sits third overall behind fellow Briton Simon Yates at Tirreno-Adriatico with one day of that race remaining? Might they even have considered Chris Froome, who told Eurosport on Sunday he felt he could have “done a job” here despite not being in shape to challenge for yellow? Is Sean Yates right about their DS leadership structure being muddled? Why do so many of their riders seem to be below-par? Did the coaching staff get their periodisation wrong?

For now, it is enough to know that for the first time since 2011, Ineos have been beaten by a better team. In days gone by, this might have been the moment for the headline writers to pull out the ‘Skyfall’ headline. The best anyone could come up with on Sunday was ‘Ineos Horribilis’.