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Defending champion Egan Bernal is not guaranteed to lead Ineos Grenadiers into Paris at the Tour de France, claims teammate Michal Kwiatkowski.
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The Colombian is team leader in the absence of former winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, although the eight-man squad also contains 2019 Giro d’Italia champion Richard Carapaz.
Bernal pulled out of the Criterium du Dauphine to protect a back injury earlier in August, having finished behind Tour rival Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) at the Tour de l’Ain.
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And Kwiatkowski believes that Ineos could “play their cards with other riders” should Bernal falter.
"Let’s not forget that Richard Carapaz won the Giro, let’s not forget that Pavel Sivakov is in incredible form this year, which he has already shown at the Criterium du Dauphine," Kwiatkowski said after Stage 2.
"Riding for one leader does not mean that we will not play our cards with other riders. It also means there isn’t so much pressure on Egan.
This is the Tour, Egan can play it well tactically in the finals with Pavel and Richard. From where I sit, it is not so different to the past years; it’s easier to play when you have more than one card. Egan will therefore have strong support.
Pavel Sivakov carries on despite heavy crash
Carapaz and Sivakov were swept up in the carnage on the opening stage in Nice, with both riders hitting the deck in torrid conditions.
Sivakov is practically out of GC contention already having leaked over 41 minutes on the opening two stages, but Bernal and Carapaz both trail yellow jersey incumbent Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) by 17 seconds.
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