Improving Bernal waiting for his moment on the Tour de France

LARUNS, France (Reuters) - Egan Bernal might not look as strong as the Slovenian duo of Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar after a week of racing on the Tour de France, but the defending champion is waiting for the right moment to put the hammer down.

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Jumbo Visma’s Roglic leads the general classification after taking bonus seconds on the fourth stage, which he won, and on Sunday’s ninth stage in Laruns.

Pogacar of Team UAE Emirates has been the most attacking rider in the Pyrenees and prevailed from a group of favourites to win in Laruns.

Yet Bernal, who appeared to struggle on Saturday, was in better shape on Sunday and sits in second place overall, 21 seconds off the pace.

Pogacar, who lost 1:20 in crosswinds on Friday, is seventh, 44 seconds behind Roglic.

“It was a good day because it’s not just about the time today,” said Bernal, who lost 11 seconds to Roglic and 12 to Pogacar in time bonuses on Sunday.

“In this part of the race, it’s about the feeling you have on the bike and the feeling I had today was better than the feeling I had yesterday.”

Ineos Grenadiers’s Bernal is biding his time, waiting to make his move on the longer climbs in the Alps, where the Tour will go above an altitude of 2,000 metres.

“On short climbs, you can’t do too much. But today I was feeling good, it gives me a bit of confidence for the next part of the race,” the 23-year-old said.

“I know that I have lost time to Roglic and Pogacar again, but I stay focused, I take it day by day, this is a three-week race.”

Roglic predicted that “a lot of things can still happen”, and Colombia’s Bernal said it was about waiting for the right moment.

“It depends on the legs. If you don’t have the legs you cannot do anything,” he said.

“You have to wait for the right moment, you have to feel it. You need to be on the bike and feel it, look at the others and make a big difference on a good day.”

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis