“It was a very fast stage, we thought there would be tension, but never so much. We never stopped all day.
“In the end, we got the chance to split the groups, and we did, so that’s good. The team did a great job and we were there until the end.
“I thought it was going to be tough, but from the first climb we had to be in front and then things broke. ”
Eighth on the stage, Bernal has now climbed one place in the general classification and will be fourth overall, 13 seconds later, as the race takes place in the Pyrenees tomorrow. But despite his stronger position, there will be no change in his relatively conservative strategy, he insisted.
“There are two very complicated stages ahead and we will have to try not to waste time, as before, and take all the opportunities that we can.
“I will be honored to wear the white jersey again” – which he won, with the yellow back in 2019 – “and I will defend him, but there is still a long way to go”.
There was still a downside for Ineos in Stage 7, as Richard Carapaz punctured late at a critical moment and despite Jonathan Castroviejo’s best efforts, the Ecuadorian lost 81 seconds. Combined with the 28 seconds he lost on the Orcières-Merlette stage, the winner of the 2019 Giro d’Italia is now more than two minutes ahead of race leader Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
Asked which of the two stages he knew best in the Pyrenees, Bernal said that Saturday saw familiar climbs from the time he spent in the region during the Route d’Occitanie – which he won – and that he knew the Peyresourde, the last to climb on stage 8, two years ago in the Tour.
“It will be very difficult for the contenders for the general”, he maintained. “And we will feel today’s stage tomorrow in our legs, that’s for sure. “