Egan Bernal’s reign as Tour de France champion comes to an end on brutal Grand Colombier

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Once described as the giant of the Jura, Grand Colombier was viewed as an excellent mountain because the wide road offered ample room for cyclists to manoeuvre.

However, it proved to be the ruin of Team Ineos and Egan Bernal on Sunday’s 15th stage, as the reigning champion cracked with 15 kilometres to go on the brutal climb.

Few would have predicted the extent of his seven-minute loss over the final frenetic kilometres, his hopes of a second Tour de France title all but faded away.

Tumbling down the overall standings from third to 13th, the fatigued Colombian is likely to leak more time behind leader Primoz Roglic with six stages remaining.

He will not blame a back injury for his lack of form, although the crash at the Criterium du Dauphine last month has clearly curtailed his influence.

The scale of his injury was never communicated outside the team, and whether he felt at his best or not, it will have, nevertheless, given him a tough lead into the Tour.

While Bernal managed to keep within a minute of yellow jersey holder Roglic, up until Sunday, he has appeared on the back foot more often than not over the last two weeks.

Instead, the normally fluent Ineos train has lacked its magical touch, with Richard Carapaz and Pavel Sivakov unable to sustain the pace of Jumbo-Visma on the climbs.

They were dominated by the speed set by Jumbo-Visma on the climb to Le Puy Mary, Roglic and his elite group of equipiers gathering at the front to prevent fast attacks.

Bernal cracked badly on that treacherous final climb, grimacing in pain as he crossed the finish line, now lying 8 minutes 25 seconds behind Roglic in the standings.

As a result of his inability to match his rivals, there will be no Ineos rider on the podium in Paris for the first time in a decade.

One year ago, there was talk of Bernal becoming the next serial winner, the man destined to secure multiple Grand Tour victories.

He may have looked frail over the last two weeks, but at 23, he has plenty of years to improve, develop and cement his status as a superstar of the sport.

Froome only won his first Tour de France crown at 28 and went on to become a four-time champion.

And just because Bernal failed to fire in recent weeks, carrying an injury and riding with the added pressure of being defending champion, it shouldn’t call his overall class and potential into question.

He will have plenty of opportunities to challenge in the future and, when that next big race rolls around, he will be back towards the front of the peloton in fine form.

While he drops out of contention heading into the final week, the in-form Roglic has further strengthened his grip on the leader’s jersey.

The 30-year-old Slovenian has looked a different beast and goes into the final stages as the favourite to win the Tour, 40 secs ahead of compatriot Tadej Pogacar.

Monday is a rest day before five tough stages through the Alps including an individual time trial on Saturday, then the traditional procession into Paris on Sunday.

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