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Egan Bernal (Ineos-Grenadiers) won’t start stage 17 of the Tour de France. The defending champion has abandoned the race to recover from his injuries and set new goals for the remainder of the season.
“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 in press release sent out by Ineos early on Wednesday morning. “I have the greatest respect for this race and I am already looking forward to coming back in the years ahead.”
Bernal has been struggling with a back injury since a crash in the Criterium du Dauphiné in August. On Sunday’s stage 15, the 23-year-old Colombian lost over seven minutes on the Grand Colombier and dropped from third to 13th in the overall classification. On stage 16 Bernal was one of the early riders letting go of the peloton. He lost another 27 minutes and said afterwards that knee pain on the final climb contributed to his woes.
“Today I was suffering all day, with back pain and it was increasing,” Bernal said, according to a report at AS.com. “In the last climb it switched to my knee. I’m screwed up on all sides.”
Team principal Dave Brailsford said the team had made the decision to withdraw the defending champion “with Egan’s best interests at heart”.
“Egan is a true champion who loves to race,” he said, “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.”
The Tour de France continues Wednesday with stage 17, a mountainous effort through the Alps that finishes with the steep climb up a bike path to the Col de la Loze.