Egan Bernal abandons Tour de France

Defending champion withdraws ahead of stage 17 with knee and back pain.

Photo: Getty Images

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Defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal has abandoned this year’s race.

The 23-year-old Colombian withdrew ahead of stage 17 Wednesday morning due to knee and back pain.

“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” said Ineos Grenadiers boss David Brailsford. “Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”

Bernal had been suffering with a back complaint since the Critérium du Dauphiné mid-August, and had been a half-watt off his best through the Tour’s opening two weeks.

Ineos Grenadiers had kept quiet about any possible problems with their team leader through the race so far, but it became all-too-apparent on the battle to the Grand Colombier on Sunday that all was not right. Bernal dropped out of the back of the GC group on the early slopes of the hors categorie ascent and went backward fast, losing over seven minutes on the stage.

It was only after Tuesday’s 16th stage, when Bernal lost further time finishing in the grupetto, that the injury problems were revealed. The young Colombian revealed after the stage to Villard-de-Lans that his back pain was causing compensation in his pedal stroke, so affecting his knee.

“I have been in real pain all day, I have back pain which only gets worse,” Bernal said after the stage Tuesday. “And in the last pass, I had more knee pain. I’m broken all over.”

Bernal leaves the race having slipped to over 27-minutes down on race-leader Primož Roglič as his team refocusses its goals on stage wins.

“This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that it is the right decision for me in the circumstances,” Bernal said Wednesday. “I have the greatest respect for this race and am already looking forward to coming back in the years ahead.”

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