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VAL THORENS, France (VN) — Egan Bernal sliced out his own bit of Tour de France history on Saturday’s stage 20 in the Alps. The Colombian is set to become the first from his country to win the race tomorrow in Paris and the youngest in the modern era.
The 22-year-old is the youngest to win in post-war times. Last year, he helped Chris Froome and eventual 2018 winner Geraint Thomas. This year, Thomas returned the favor so Bernal could write history.
“It’s one of the biggest things for us, it will be our first Tour de France,” Bernal said.
“So yeah, I’m really proud to to be the first Colombian to win the Tour de France. So imagine, our first Tour. I think it’s really important for us.
“Yeah, I’m really proud to be the first Colombian to win the Tour.”
Colombian fans at the finish line roared as Bernal accepted the yellow jersey for the second time. On Friday, he took it in Tignes on a stage shortened at the Iseran climb. Today, Thomas helped him defended and rode himself into second at 1:11.
“There’s a part of me that would want to be on the top step, but at the same time, Egan is an amazing guy,” Thomas said, jammed next to the barriers at 2,363 meters.
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) won the Alpine stage. Bernal led the fight behind at 17 seconds, finishing hand-in-hand with Thomas. They had dropped Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), which allowed Thomas to advance from third to second.
Bernal also won the white jersey of best young rider.
“He’s 22, who knows how many he’ll win,” Thomas said.
“The way the team has been, it’s just been incredible. And it couldn’t be a nicer guy to win. Egan is truly a genuinely nice, friendly, happy guy, and a pleasure to ride with. And Christ he’s only 22.”
Thomas, 33, began as co-captain with Bernal. However, he had a bumpy run-in to the Tour, abandoning the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race and Tour de Suisse.
Bernal, however, won Paris-Nice and Suisse to establish himself as Tour contender and leader. Thomas says there were no rivalries.
“But yeah we are both ambitious, and we’re at different stages of our career and you know, I’ve ridden and been loyal for so many teammates before me,” Thomas explained.
“It was 10 years of doing it until I get my own opportunity to [win the Tour] but at the same time, when someone like Egan is in the team as well and he’s riding well, there’s no shame and no harm if I do my bit for him.”
Other recent Colombians like Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First), came close in previous years, but Bernal wrote his name in cycling’s history books.
“We are going to help him to win as many Grand Tours as he can, and what is crazy for us is we’ve got Froome coming back stronger than he’s ever been and G [Thomas],” Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal said. “I’m sure Egan’s got this whole future ahead of him.”