Egan Bernal wins the Yellow Jersey from teammate Thomas

By James Smith

The 2019 edition of the Tour de France was the centenary of the first Yellow Jersey, won by Firmin Lambot in 1919, and saw the youngest winner in 110 years in Egan Bernal ride down the Champs-Élysées in Yellow.

Bernal road the 3,365.8km route in a time of 82 hours and 57 minutes exactly, finishing one minute and eleven seconds ahead of Team Ineos teammate, and defending champion Geraint Thomas.

Neither Thomas nor Bernal won a stage in this years tour, making Bernal the eighth man to win a tour without taking a stage win. Chris Froome was the last to do so in 2017.

It was not until stage 19 (of 21) that Bernal even took the jersey, after a landslide in the Val-d’Isère caused the stage to be cut short by the race organisers. The time of the stage was then taken instead from the summit of the Col de l’Iseran; Bernal having reached the summit first after attacking the other main contenders on the climb.

Bernal road the 3,365.8km route in a time of 82 hours and 57 minutes

Bernal held the Jersey on the final day in the Alps, meaning he could ride into Paris to clinch his first Grand Tour win as a professional cyclist.

Early talk, however, throughout the Tour had been about the battle between French rider Julian Alaphillippe and Geraint Thomas. The former was in yellow from stage three all the way to stage nineteen (baring a short lone to Giulio Ciccone on stages six and seven).

By the time the tour reached the Alps it would appear that Alaphillippe no longer had the legs.

Alaphillippe looked strong throughout the tour, winning a hugely-impressive individual time trial in Pau from Thomas on a day where the Frenchman turned from opportunist to favourite to win.

He backed that up the next day, dropping Thomas on the notorious Tourmalet climb to follow Pinot, Buchmann, Lander, Kruijswijk, and crucially Bernal, to take further time away from the Welshman.

So Alaphillippe emerged from the Pyrenees with the hopes of the French people on his shoulders. The nation has not had one of their own crossing the line in Paris in Yellow since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

However, by the time the tour reached the Alps it would appear that Alaphillippe no longer had the legs. The valiant efforts that eventually won him the Combativity Award were in fact to amount for nothing as he lost time in both stages eighteen and nineteen to finish fifth in the GC, four minutes behind.

What does this mean for Ineos?

With Egan Bernal winning his first Grand Tour, Team Ineos (who took over from Sky this year) now have three Grand Tour winners within their ranks, with Bernal, Thomas and Chris Froome.

When Ineos line up to begin the Tour next year they will surely have three riders competing in the General Classification

Froome did not ride the tour this year, due to a major injury sustained during the Criterium du Dauphine this year.

However, when Ineos line up to begin the Tour next year they will surely have three riders competing in the General Classification, and presumably pursuing a policy of joint leadership between the three.

This shows the strength of the Ineos team whose Sky heritage boasts seven of the last eight Tour de France wins, a Vuelta, and a Giro d’Italia. Admittedly all but three of which belong to Chris Froome.

But, as they showed this year, perhaps only rivalled by Movistar and Jumbo-Visma, Ineos have a great strength of domestiques to power their GC ambitions. With the likes of Rowe, Castroviejo, and Poels amongst these names, Ineos showed on the roads how they could control a race, to allow their power-houses to chase the Yellow on their own terms.

What about Bernal?

G. Garitan Via Wikimedia Commons

The Colombian was riding in only his second tour this year, having been a domestique for Sky the previous year. In actual fact this was only his second ever Grand Tour.

He has however, enjoyed victory in other UCI events. This includes both the Paris-Nice, and Tour de Suisse in 2019, and the Tour of California the year before. So he is not exactly an unknown.

Not only is Bernal the youngest winner since 1909, he is also the first Colombian to win the Tour de France, and the third youngest ever.

Being the third youngest ever, meant that he won not only the Yellow Jersey, but also the White (for younger riders), this as well as showing his climbing credentials by finishing second in the King of the Mountains competition, behind Romain Bardet.

At only 22 years of age then, his is surely a name that we will become used to hearing, both in France again next year, and across the UCI World Tour in general.

Image: Marco Virch via Flickr

One thought on “Egan Bernal wins the Yellow Jersey from teammate Thomas

  • I’m pretty sure Bernal would have won Stage 19 if it hadn’t been for the mudslide – but of course we’ll never know. As you imply, next year’s going to be interesting!

    Reply

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