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After ceding a minute to his direct GC rival on Sunday’s mountaintop finale at Alto de Velefique, the Ineos Grenadiers captain admitted he’s not in an ideal position as the Vuelta hits the halfway mark.
The Colombian star admitted that Roglič is clearly in the driver’s seat, especially with a time trial stage waiting on the final day in Galicia on September 5.
“Looking that I have already almost lost two minutes, it’s difficult to think in winning the race,” Bernal said Monday. “Anything can still happen in this Vuelta. If I race intelligently and do what I need to do, maybe I can do a good GC even if I am not at my 100 percent.”
Bernal lit up the Giro d’Italia to win the pink jersey in May, but a case of COVID-19 is proving costly as he tries to take on Roglič and the rest of the peloton in his Vuelta debut.
“I have very different feelings in general compared to the Giro,” Bernal said in a media call Monday. “I am feeling here that I can go tempo at my own pace, but I cannot do the accelerations. I did the entire climb [Sunday] on my own, with the wind. It’s difficult.
“If I have these accelerations I can go on the wheels,” he said. “The preparation was different, and the Giro was my big objective for this season. I had the intention of preparing well for the Vuelta, but with the COVID I did not arrive at my best, so it’s normal to miss something. I need to keep fighting and hopefully, I can move one step up.”
"We decided to give it our all. The idea was to put in a hard tempo during the stage and then to try it on the last climb"
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) August 22, 2021
Bernal and Ineos Grenadiers teammate Adam Yates are still very much in the mix, especially for a final spot on the podium.
Following Sunday’s dramatic stage, Bernal is fifth overall at 1:52 back, and Yates climbed into sixth at 2:07 back. The team tried to blow up the race Sunday, but Roglič and Movistar were able to come over the top.
“I wasn’t that bad on Velefique,” he said. “With respect to the GC, we don’t know what will happen. We are in a race that is very hard, and anything can happen.
“Right now we do not see a weak point for Roglič,” Bernal said. “And it’s quite something else to see a weak point, because you to have the legs to attack. He’s a very strong rider, he’s the Olympic time trial champion, he’s twice won the Vuelta, and he’s one of the best in the world. We’ll see if we have a possibility and we’ll do the best we can.”
Yates says rivals need at least two minutes for final TT
With Richard Carapaz fading out of contention by losing eight minutes Sunday, it’s now up to Yates and Bernal to try to fight for a podium spot.
Yates also said that the second half of the Vuelta is packed with even harder stages, and repeated the refrain that “anything can happen.”
“We’ll keep plugging away. There are still two weeks to go,” Yates said. “Primož was the strongest guy there [Sunday]. At one point, I noticed he was behind, and he seemed to bridge that gap pretty easily, so I don’t think he’s going too bad. We have seen him a little bit isolated, but yesterday, they had five-six guys in the first group, so I haven’t seen any weakness so far.”
Ineos Grenadiers drove hard Sunday on several climbs to try put Jumbo-Visma under pressure, but their Dutch rivals responded.
“We pushed the pace [Sunday] to try to lose some of Jumbo’s riders, but it didn’t work out in the end,” Yates said. “At the end of the climb, I was aggressive early and Egan was going to sit on the wheels. We did the best we could, and it’s not easy nine stages in. Every day’s been a fight, so we have to keep trying our best.”
With a long individual time trial waiting at the end of the Vuelta, everyone knows that they will need a head-start on Roglič.
“A lot,” Yates said when asked how much time he’d need on Roglič. “It’s not just me, but it’s the same for everyone. He’s the Olympic champion. Everyone will need a lot of time. I’d say at least two minutes.”
If that’s the handicap, it’s not just Ineos Grenadiers that needs to attack.