5 things we learned as Egan Bernal wins Tour de France
Sir Dave Brailsford was celebrating once again as his rebranded Team Ineos made it seven Tour de France wins out of the last eight – but this time it was not a Briton on the top step of the podium.
Egan Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour and the youngest winner in over a century as he crossed the line on Sunday.
Here, PA looks at five things we learned from the 2018 Tour.
Bernal’s future looks bright
This was only Bernal’s second Grand Tour. But at the age of 22 he is a Tour de France winner. Brailsford’s main task in the coming months might now be managing the expectations placed on the young shoulders of Bernal. You could feel the team trying to do that early in this Tour, long before Bernal was in yellow. But with the young Colombian now being feted in his homeland and so much attention being placed on the fact he is the youngest winner of the Tour in a century, people are already asking how many times he can win cycling’s biggest race.
Good problems to have
It has long been known that Team Ineos have an embarrassment of riches, but this is getting out of hand. With Bernal climbing on to the top step in Paris, they now have three Tour winners in their squad, and a potential dilemma on their hands next summer. Chris Froome faces a long rehabilitation from injuries suffered in June’s horror crash but will want a shot at a record-equalling fifth Tour crown next July, while Bernal will surely want to defend his title. Perhaps that pushes Geraint Thomas towards the Giro d’Italia, but given the imminent signing of the defending champion in that race, Richard Carapaz, that is open to question too. The only thing clear is that it is a good problem to have.
Alaphilippe has a decision to make
Julian Alaphilippe was the star of the show for his 14 days in yellow. He turned up looking for stage victories and maybe a repeat of last year’s victory in the King of the Mountains classification, but after taking yellow on stage three to Epernay he launched a defence that just kept going and going. The question is whether that has any long-term impact on the 27-year-old. Will he now wonder about spending the winter trying to reinvent himself as a general classification rider, someone who might have been able to hold on for two more days? It would be a gamble for sure. Alaphilippe is the world’s top-ranked rider for a reason, and should probably stick to what he is best at. But the temptation could be strong.
Boring, boring Sagan
OK, not really. Cycling’s great entertainer does not know how to be boring. When not pulling wheelies on his time trial bike on a 17 per cent incline, or signing copies of his autobiography without missing a pedal stroke on the Tourmalet, he was giving killer line after killer line after the stage. But such is his complete domination now of the points classification that its now more predictable than a Team Ineos victory. Sagan has won the green jersey seven out of the last eight years, breaking Erik Zabel’s record. Sagan has won the green jersey every year he has started the Tour except 2017, when he was controversially disqualified for his stage four crash with Mark Cavendish. His margin of victory was much reduced this year but it was never in doubt.
Now or never?
Before the Tour began French newspaper L’Equipe covered its front page with pictures of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet with the headline, Now or Never. With Chris Froome out, it figured that Team Ineos might be short of their usual dominance, while a route short on time trials minimised the weakness of the two French riders most likely to end what is now a 34-year-wait for another home winner. But Bardet slid out of contention as soon as the first climbs came, having to console himself with a successful late charge for the polka dot jersey, while Pinot’s Tour ended in heartbreak, a leg injury suffered on Wednesday forcing him to withdraw from fourth place on Friday. And so the French wait goes on.