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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España: Egan Bernal says ‘anything can happen’ and Ineos Grenadiers still has three leaders

Egan Bernal says that Ineos Grendaiers still has three leaders, despite Adam Yates and Richard Carapaz losing time in the opening stages of the Vuelta a España.

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Egan Bernal might be heading the Ineos Grenadiers pack in the Vuelta a España GC, but he hasn’t nominated himself as the ultimate team leader just yet.

Bernal is poised 27 seconds behind Primož Roglič, the best placed of the pre-race favorites, after giving that time away in the opening time trial. Meanwhile, Adam Yates is nearly a minute back after getting held up in a crash on stage 2, and Richard Carapaz has a 1:45 deficit to Roglič following a bad day Monday that was compounded by a penalty for an unauthorized feed.

Also read: Egan Bernal aiming to make history with grand tour sweep

While Bernal may be sitting pretty in the Ineos Grenadiers hierarchy, the Colombian is keen to impress that there’s still plenty to come in the next three weeks and the team won’t be pushing Yates and Carapaz to the side just yet.

“I am not the only leader – the time they’ve lost it’s not that much. It’s obvious it’s not great to lose time but this is the Vuelta,” Bernal said after stage 4. “We’re at the end of the season, anything can happen. There’s a lot of fatigue and the heat, and anything can happen still in this race, so the more we have more up in the front the better,”

 

Preparing for crosswinds and echelons

After a rocky first few days, Bernal, Yates, and Carapaz all finished safely within the bunch on Tuesday’s finale into Molina de Aragón. It was a relatively calm day for the peloton, except for race leader Rein Taaramäe who crashed inside the final three kilometers.

Ahead of the Vuelta a España, there was plenty of talk about wind causing a lot of disruption and chaos in the opening days of the race, but it has not materialized just yet.

“The wind wasn’t that strong today to really mark the stage,” Bernal said. “It’s something we’ll try one day if there’s enough wind. All the riders have that feeling, and like all the teams, we are very attentive, and we are ready to take advantage of any opportunity.”

Stage 5’s flat run from Tarancón to Albacete, which is expected to lead to a sprint finish, provides another opportunity for echelons and carnage if the wind speed picks it up a notch.

Despite his slight form, Bernal has shown himself to be a dab hand at dealing with crosswinds in the past and he’s ready to take them on Wednesday if they arrive.

“I haven’t seen the stage yet, but it will be a nervous stage with the wind. We will see how strong the wind is and the stage,” he said. “In the crosswinds, you need to be in the front, or you will get dropped. We need to be in a good position, and of course, you need to be strong to be up there, but you also need to be intelligent and to move well. I hope to have the guys up there.”

Bernal is still finding his feet after returning to racing late last month following a summer break. He’s shown some flashes of form and looked comfortable against his rivals in the mountains but he’s yet to go all out.

After contracting COVID-19 immediately after his Giro d’Italia win in May, Bernal doesn’t know how his body will perform under the strain of grand tour racing.

“The morale is high, and I think the legs are good but after the Giro I had COVID, so I don’t know if I’m at 100 percent,” Bernal said. “I’m just trying to do my best and I’m trying to enjoy the race. I don’t know if I can win but I will do my best in the mountains and even on the flat. I would be happy just having good feelings.”