Egan Bernal won stage 6 at the 2018 Tour of California and took control of the overall lead.

Sky’s Egan Bernal soloed to an impressive stage win and the overall leadership at the Amgen Tour of California’s queen stage finishing at South Lake Tahoe. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) finished second 1:28 behind the winner and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Sky) rounded out the podium in third at 1:30 back. Bernal took the overall leaders jersey from American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and will take GC leadership into tomorrow’s final stage in Sacramento.

Bernal put in a late-race attack on the final climb that distanced his rivals and all but sealed the overall win. After the stage, he said the attack was part of  Sky’s overall plan for the day.

“The plan was to make the race very hard on the last 12km climb. We had to see how BMC would do the race, and then we decided to make our decisions during the race.”

Van Garderen’s lack of teammates on the final climb and feeling strong was cited as a major factor for his attack.

“When I saw Tejay was alone, that was the moment. Tao said on the radio that he felt good, so I said he could go and maybe I would attack and stay with him. It was just like when I looked behind and it was a small group, I decided to attack.

“I felt so good on the last long climb. The team did a really good job to make a really hard pace, and then I just tried. I was alone. It was difficult because after this climb there was still 10km to ride. So I just keep pushing hard.”

Stage 6, top ten

General Classification, top ten

The 196-kilometer long stage from Folsom to South Lake Tahoe featured a herculean 14,478 feet of climbing. Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Lawson Craddock (EF Education First-Drapac) held a slim 10-second lead with 20km left in the race, but once the two escapees were caught, the pace ramped up and the peloton shattered.

With 15-kilometers remaining, only nine riders remained in the front group, with three from Team Sky. Geoghegan Hart (Sky) attacked shortly after and only Yates, van Garderen, Daniel Martinez (EF Education First-Drapac) were able to respond. Van Garderen put in a massive effort to get back on terms with Geoghegan Hart, but as soon as the British rider was within touching distance, Bernal put in a searing attack, immediately getting a devastating gap.

Geoghegan Hart said his attack was in service of the team and that the goal was to wrestle the leader’s jersey from van Garderen.

“We had to make it hard before, which we did. And then the goal was to win. If I finished 100th or wherever it didn’t matter. The main and only goal was to get the yellow jersey and we managed to do it.

“I went and Egan and Tejay came across, and I knew that was the moment to consolidate the pressure on him. Egan attacked. In hindsight, I probably should have gone with him but you never know how it’s going to play out.”

By the time Bernal crested the climb with 10 kilometers remaining, he had over a minute on a chasing group of Yates, Martinez, and Geoghegan Hart, with van Garderen slightly off the pace.

Van Garderen was caught by a surging Brandon McNulty (Rally), who had been dropped earlier on the climb, as he began the descent, and the two riders joined by Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) soon after. The three riders were able to get back on terms with the Yates group a few kilometers later.

Bernal had a pulled out a lead of 90-seconds by the time the race hit the final pitch to the line with 1.5km to go. McNulty attacked out of the chase group, and he was joined by Yates soon after.

McNulty was nonchalant about instigating the move that set up the final two podium positions when asked about it afterward.

“Why not? I had the legs and no one else was doing it. Someone has to attack.”

Bernal crossed the finish line alone to win the stage and take the overall leaders jersey. Yates led Geoghegan Hart over the line 90 seconds back, with McNulty coming across the line for an impressive fourth-place 1:33 behind the winner.

Tomorrow’s 146- kilometer final stage in Sacramento is pancake flat and is almost certainly going to feature a bunch sprint.

Full Stage Results