Grenoble (AFP)

The Tour de France is deprived of its last winner: Colombian Egan Bernal, behind in the standings, threw in the towel at the request of his team Ineos, Wednesday, on the morning of the queen stage, the 17th, which ended at the Loze pass.

The British team broke the news early in the morning that Bernal supporters feared, after seeing the 23-year-old Colombian finish the Villard-de-Lans stage in a late squad on Tuesday.

"We think it is wiser for him to stop," said UK team boss Dave Brailsford.

Bernal, 16th in the standings almost 20 minutes behind the Slovenian Primoz Roglic jersey, was a long way from the podium.

Failure Sunday in the ascent of the Grand Colombier, he could not regain the upper hand, Tuesday, the day after the day of rest.

The Colombian, who had competed with Roglic at the start of the Dauphiné, then declined and abandoned the race complaining of the back.

During the Tour, he again suffered from the back, without however sheltering Sunday behind this reason to explain his failure.

"This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end," said the first Colombian rider to win the Tour, quoted by his team in the statement.

"But I agree that it is the right decision for me in these circumstances."

"I have the greatest respect for this race and I am already looking forward to coming back in the years to come," assured Bernal, who was competing in the Tour for the third time.

- single leader -

"We made this decision keeping the interests of Egan at heart. He is a true champion who loves to run, but he is also a young rider, with many laps ahead of him", explained Dave Brailsford, who has sign Bernal until the end of 2023.

The young Colombian approached the Tour with the status of unique leader in his team, deprived of his two other big names, the British Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, two former winners whose performances at the Dauphiné, in mid-August, did not were not found to be convincing.

In 2018, for his debut, the Colombian devoted himself to the cause of his leaders and took 15th place.

Before winning the following year, by taking power at the top of Iseran, in the truncated stage of Tignes (Savoie), two days from the conclusion in Paris.

The 17th stage, the most anticipated of the event, links Grenoble to the Col de la Loze, an unprecedented ascent above the resort of Méribel (Savoie).

© 2020 AFP