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28.07.2019 Sports News

Colombian Egan Bernal crowned Tour champion in the Paris twilight

By RFI
Christian Hartmann/Reuters
JUL 28, 2019 SPORTS NEWS

Colombian Egan Bernal crossed the finish line of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees Sunday evening, after three gruelling weeks in the saddle. Bernal had already won the Tour de France by the beginning of the last stage of the Tour which started late Sunday afternoon.

At the start of Sunday's stage, Bernal led Ineos teammate Geraint Thomas by 1min 11sec overall and Jumbo-Visma's Steven Kruijswijk by 1min 31sec.

The 22-year-old champion-in-waiting along with the other 155 men left the starting line after the grueling three week 3,480 kilometre cycling odyssey, set off from Rambouillet southwest of Paris, at around 6:30 (Paris) before crossing the finish line two hours later.

Colombia's Egan Bernal
Bernal is the first Colombian winner of cycling's greatest prize and it's youngest in more than a century.

Bernal said he appreciated he had finally added his name to the Tour de France roll of honour when outgoing champion and Ineos teammate Geraint Thomas held out his hand at the end of Saturday's stage.

"I realised it was over and I was going to win the Tour de France," said the man topping the 2019 general classifications for this anniversary edition celebrating 100 years of the yellow jersey after Saturday's penultimate stage.

On Saturday, Bernal and Thomas crossed the winning line a few seconds ahead of their key rivals and smiled broadly at each other as they held hands in unity to mark the moment.

Thomas, who will take second overall, said that this landmark victory would be the start of a golden future for his Ineos co-captain.

"I told Egan not to worry about the crying because all real men cry," said Thomas.

"He's an incredible talent and can dominate the race for years to come.

"It's a one-two for Ineos so things worked out not that bad. I'm disappointed not to have won, I didn't think last year Egan would be ready yet, but now I'm looking forward to a bit of downtime."

"Today is about Egan. He is a really solid guy with a great team and good people around him."

Afterwards, Bernal said he was so nervous on Saturday's climb to Val Thorens in the Alps that he counted down the kilometres on the way up.

"I still have to get to Paris but it's incredible," said Bernal who will become the Tour's youngest winner since Francois Faber in 1909.

"I'm a little calmer now. I kept thinking 5km, 4km, and 3km one less, one less to go each time as we came up the mountain."

Ineos principal Dave Brailsford has masterminded seven Tour wins from the last eight editions with Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome (four wins), Thomas and now with Bernal.

"To come away with first and second on the podium has been tremendously rewarding," Brailsford said. "Of course with a guy so young in Egan it has added an extra bit of enjoyment and a different element because all our previous wins have been with British riders."

'Beautiful Tour de France' 
When the riders gathered for the run into Paris, they were congratulated for having made this 2019 edition such a success.

"There have been some great races and a beautiful Tour de France," said race organising president Christian Prudhomme, who singled out the audacious attack-minded riders, with Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe top of that list, for individual praise for their contribution.

Alaphilippe, who led for 14 days, finished fifth overall after cracking on before cracking on Friday and Saturday's hail and landslide-curtailed stages.

Green jersey wearer Peter Sagan said he was delighted Saturday's uphill stage was shortened.

Frenchman Romain Bardet redeemed what had looked like a disastrous three weeks for him by rallying to win the 'King of the Mountains' polka dot jersey with two fine performances in the Alps.

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