Bernal win brings new look for Brailsford
Sir Dave Brailsford chose a very specific shade of yellow to celebrate his team’s latest Tour de France victory as he sported a Colombia football shirt in honour of Egan Bernal’s win.
Brailsford has become accustomed to toasting victory on the Champs-Elysees but his team’s seventh win in the last eight editions has a different accent as the 22-year-old Bernal becomes the first Colombian to win the Tour.
The wunderkind, who took control of the race on the Col de l’Iseran on Friday, could enjoy the customary glass of champagne on the final stage to the capital, where Caleb Ewan won stage 21 for his third success of his debut Tour.
The youngest winner of the Tour since 1909 crossed the line hand in hand with last year’s winner and team-mate Geraint Thomas, who had thrown his support behind Bernal as soon as he seized yellow on Friday.
Bernal, aged 22 years and 196 days, becomes a Grand Tour winner in only his second career three-week race, but his maturity was evident both on the bike and on the podium, where he used four different languages to deliver his victory speech.
“I think I should say thank you to all my team, thank you ‘G’ (Thomas) for the opportunity and all the team for their support and belief in me,” he said in English.
“I think today I am the most happy guy in the world. I just won the Tour de France and I can’t believe it.”
Thomas collected second place to give Britain a 10th podium finish in the history of the race, while it was a first one-two for what was Team Sky since Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in 2012.
It was a bittersweet end for Thomas, who had hoped to be celebrating himself but was happy to see the title remain with the team.
“Egan is the future, he’s just unbelievable,” the Welshman said. “And to be a part of that with him, I’m sure when I’m 45 and fat and old and sat in a pub watching him win his 10th Tour de France, I’ll be like, ‘I taught him everything he knows’.
“He’s such a wise head on such young shoulders and he’s got a great support network around him and I think that’ll be key now going forward for him.”
Regarding his own future, Thomas added: “It’s just great to be a part of it. I’ve got a couple more years to be racing at the top, so I’ll make the most of that.”
As the traditional procession into Paris began from Rambouillet to the west of the city, Bernal was congratulated first by Julian Alaphilippe, who animated the 106th Tour as his aggressive start and dogged defence was rewarded by 14 days in the yellow jersey and the Super Combatif award for the most aggressive rider.
Bernal was then handed a glass of champagne from the Ineos team car as the celebrations began, with Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan – who won the green jersey for a record seventh time – doing his best to photobomb them as they lined up across the front of the peloton.
Bernal’s victory means what was Team Sky, now Team Ineos, have won a total of 10 Grand Tours since their formation in 2010, including the 2011 Vuelta a Espana title awarded to Chris Froome earlier this month following Juan Jose Cobo’s doping case.
Despite how the results read, for once Brailsford’s team did not dominate a Tour which will be remembered for Alaphilippe’s remarkable run in yellow, but they were always next in line when the Frenchman did – as expected – finally crack in the Alps.
Although Thomas had been best placed to take over for much of the race, Bernal made moves in the Pyrenees to take back time he had lost in the time trial, and then had the best legs in the Alps when it really mattered.
He took yellow on Friday’s weather-shortened stage 19, having attacked on the climb of the Col de l’Iseran, the highest point on the Tour.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, whose buyout of what was Team Sky earlier this year secured the team’s future, was watching on from the team car as Bernal celebrated victory.
After the drinks and the photos on the road into town, the final stage came down to the customary sprint where Ewan took top honours.
The Australian looked badly positioned on the approach to the line but exploded forward to edge out Dylan Groenewegen on the line as the sun set over the Arc de Triomphe.
“When we rolled onto the Champs Elysees, I almost had tears in my eyes,” the 25-year-old said. “It was such a surreal feeling. I can’t believe I just won the stage.