The INEOS Grenadiers riders heard on Wednesday morning at the breakfast of leader Egan Bernal that he is leaving the Tour de France.

The defending champion was already nineteen minutes behind in sixteenth place in the standings.

According to Kwiatkowski, Bernal was pretty deep down.

"Egan spoke to us at breakfast this morning. He was very sorry that he had to give up, he looked very sad."

The thirty-year-old Pole understood the Colombian's choice.

"He started with a back injury after a fall from the Dauphiné and that is only half resolved."

"When you are in pain, you often sit on your bike differently and force. Then you get pain somewhere else, he also got problems with his knee," says Kwiatkowski.

"Then it is wise to get off."

INEOS Grenadiers rider Michal Kwiatkowski has decided to leave the Tour.

(Photo: Pro Shots)

'Better recover now than Monday after Paris'

Despite his large time loss in recent days, the departure of the defending champion came as a surprise to the competition from INEOS.

"Bernal must have suffered a lot from his back, because as a cyclist you always want to continue until Paris. Giving up is never fun", said Tom Dumoulin of Jumbo-Visma.

According to Kwiatkowski, it was of little use for Bernal to drive another five days to the Champs Élysées.

"He can better start recovering now than starting on Monday."

"For novices it is sometimes useful to finish the Tour and gain experience. But he is already a great champion and knows what it is like to ride and even win a three-week race," said the 2014 world champion. .

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Kwiatkowski hopes Bernal doesn't take it too seriously

Kwiatkowski hopes that his leader will not receive a major mental blow from the assignment in the race he won last year.

"We know he has done his best."

"Now it's up to us as teammates and the fans to support him. I hope he doesn't take it too seriously, because at the end of the day it's just a sports game."