Egan Bernal has given Team Ineos a potential headache over its leadership at next month’s Tour de France after winning the overall title at the Tour de Suisse this afternoon. His team-mate Geraint Thomas is due to lead the team in France, where he will be the defending champion, having been given the all clear to compete despite crashing out of the Swiss race earlier this week.
This afternoon’s closing stage of the Tour de Suisse, a 101-kilometre circuit starting and finishing in Goms, was won by British rider Hugh Carthy of EF Education First who attacked on the day’s opening climb to ride solo and win by 1 minute 2 seconds.
Rohan Dennis of Bahrain-Merida, second overall at the start of the day, finished second on the day’s stage but with Bernal finishing on the same time as the Australian, it’s the 22-year-old Colombian who clinches the General Classification by a margin of 19 seconds.
Bernal won Paris-Nice earlier this year and had been due to lead Team Ineos at the Giro d’Italia until breaking his collarbone in a training crash shortly before the race.
Chris Froome’s injuries sustained at the Criterium du Dauphiné earlier this month have ruled him out of the Tour de France and for several months afterwards, meaning Thomas will have sole leadership as he attempts to retain his crown.
Team Ineos, under its previous guise of Team Sky, have won six of the past seven editions and the bookmakers are predicting that their dominance will continue, installing the 32-year-old Thomas as favourite and Bernal, 10 years his junior, as second favourite.
Speaking after winning the Tour de Suisse, Bernal said: “"I will go with G [to the Tour], he will be our leader, I will try to help him and if he is better than me I will help him.
“I don't have any problems to help him, I am just 22 years old and have a lot of Tours in front of me"
Team Ineos have been here before, of course, starting with the 2011 Vuelta where Froome held the overall lead only to be made to work for team-mate Bradley Wiggins, who took the red jersey from him but faded in the final days of the race.
Victory went to Juan Jose Cobo with Froome runner-up – although he is set to be belatedly awarded the overall victory after the Spaniard was stripped of his title earlier this month for doping.
The following year, when Wiggins won the Tour de France, many saw Froome as the stronger rider but he was kept on a leash to support his team leader, before going on to claim the first of his four titles in 2013.
After winning the Tour de France last year, Thomas expressed his frustration at not being given the team’s full support despite getting into the overall lead with back-to-back wins in the Alps midway through the race, with Froome only committing himself fully to the Welshman’s bid for the title in the closing days.
Clearly, should Thomas lose time to his team-mate through a mechanical, a crash or some other issue, we could be in for another edition of the race where much of the debate from viewers will revolve around which of the riders Ineos should be backing for the overall.
Bernal added: “It’s one of the biggest races that I’ve won. I’m really happy and it gives me a lot of confidence for the next races.
“Just before the race I had a big crash and I could not go to the Giro. So to come here and to win is really nice for me and the team.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.