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Egan Bernal’s Tour de France defense collapses in mountains

Tadej Pogacar edges Primoz Roglic during Stage 15 of the Tour de France, Egan Bernal plummets in the general classification standings, and Ineos' reign is effectively over.

Ineos’ reign is over at the Tour de France.

Defending champion Egan Bernal lost seven minutes to leader Primoz Roglic and dropped from third place to 13th in the overall standings in Sunday’s 15th stage.

“I was not going well from the first climb to be honest, I was almost dropped there,” Bernal said of the first of three major ascents that came 61 miles into the 108-mile day. “It’s difficult to say how I felt, the feeling was that I was empty -- I had no power.

“The other riders have been stronger than me and we have to accept that.”

Bernal’s plummet while scaling the Grand Colombier effectively ensures an Ineos Grenadiers rider will not win the Tour de France for the first time since 2014, going back to when the outfit was sponsored by Sky and led by Chris Froome.

Ineos chose not to bring Froome nor 2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas to this year’s Tour, putting their eggs in the Bernal basket. Froome, a four-time Tour winner, announced before he was left off the squad that he is moving to another team after this season.

The new story: Slovenia is poised to produce its first Tour de France podium finishers and champion.

Countrymen Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar remain one-two in the overall standings after they finished one-two on Sunday, with Pogacar getting the stage win. They finished in the same time after the last 11-mile climb, but Pogacar gained four seconds in bonus to move 40 seconds behind Roglic.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

“For the moment, [Roglic] seems unstoppable,” said Pogacar, a 21-year-old who finished third at the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, when Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a Grand Tour. “Today, Bernal cracked. Maybe one day I can crack. Or Roglic. You never know in a three-week stage race, especially Tour. So it’s still opportunities.”

Roglic, a former world junior champion ski jumper, and his Jumbo-Visma team looked as dominant as ever on Sunday. They had five riders at the front when Bernal cracked, including rising American Sepp Kuss.

“Jumbo did a really hard pace today,” said Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates. “Some riders paid for it.”

Roglic and Bernal began the Tour two weeks ago as co-favorites. Roglic, who took up cycling eight years ago at age 22, didn’t dwell on Bernal, who went from 59 seconds back to 8:25 behind.

“I don’t really bother so much with others, who is doing well or bad,” Roglic said. “We have to keep the focus on ourselves.”

Colombian Rigoberto Uran inherited third place, 1:34 behind Roglic.

After Monday’s rest day, the the next three stages are in the mountains. The last competitive day is a 22-mile time trial Saturday, finishing with a category-one ascent.

MORE: How Roglic beat Luka Doncic

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