PARIS, July 28: Egan Bernal retained his Tour de France yellow jersey through the shortened penultimate stage on Saturday and effectively became the first Colombian rider to win the overall title of the world's most renowned road cycling tournament.
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 overall winner, tasted his sixth stage win in stage 20 from Albertville to Val Thorens after organizers had modified the route cut short by over 70km. "It's been a feeling of liberation when I crossed the line because the last few hundred meters felt like never ending. My only way to make it was to attack from far out," said Nibali, who branded his triumph "a nice revenge" for his winless record since last year.
Bernal grabbed the yellow jersey from Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe in Friday's stage, which was brought to an earlier conclusion due to hail storm. The young Colombian steadied his nerves a day later to defend the overall lead, crossing the finish line hand in hand with Ineos teammate and defending champion Geraint Thomas.
With an advantage of 1 minute 11 seconds over Thomas, Bernal only needs to arrive at Paris safely on Sunday in a normally processional stage to secure the first Tour title, both for himself and his country. "We're now close to making it official. There's one stage left but, normally, if everything goes well, I can say that I've won my first Tour," commented Bernal, who also has the white jersey for the best young rider in hand.
"Colombia is on the verge of winning its first Tour. I feel this is not only my triumph but the triumph of a whole country," he added. Alaphilippe, who wore the yellow jersey for 14 days before conceding it to Bernal, drops to fifth overall behind Dutch rider Steven Kruijswijk and Emanuel Buchmann of Germany.
Slovakia's Peter Sagan moves closer to his seventh sprint green jersey. The polka dot jersey representing the best climber belongs to local favorite Romain Bardet. Movistar sit atop the team's overall standings. Riders will leave from Rambouillet and arrive at the iconic Champs-Elysees on Sunday to curtain down the 21-stage race. (UNI-Xinhua)