Ineos' rider Egan Bernal ruled out of Criterium du Dauphine with back injury
Ineos leader Bernal was in seventh place, trailing the currently irresistable Primoz Roglic by 31 seconds, with this year's Tour de France due to start on 29 August.
Tour de France champion Egan Bernal has been ruled out the rest of the Criterium du Dauphine with a back issue, his team-mate Geraint Thomas said ahead of Saturday's penultimate stage.
Ineos leader Bernal was in seventh place, trailing the currently irresistible Primoz Roglic by 31 seconds, with this year's Tour de France due to start on 29 August.
"He doesn't start today. He's got a bit of a bad back and the best thing for him is to just take it easy," 2018 Tour winner Thomas said.
"It's such a short turn around to the Tour that it's important he gets it 100 percent right and be good then. I don't think it's a major issue, it's just better to be on the side of caution," he added.
With four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome still fighting back to full fitness, and Thomas still getting up to speed, Bernal, just 23, had been the clear leader of the British outfit.
After winning the Tour de Occitanie, Bernal was over-shaddowed by Roglic at the Tour de L'Ain and at the ultra-mountainous Dauphine, he has been slowly but surely slipping off the pace.
Ineos' Russian climber Pavel Sivakov said after stage three he felt Bernal had been huge, but was feeling unwell.
"Egan told me that he was not feeling super today," said the Russian champion who stayed with Bernal once Thomas and Froome had dropped off.
"Egan had a bit of a hard day in the end but it’s not a problem. He’s here and he’s done two hard races," Sivakov said on Friday.
Ineos, formerly Team Sky, have won seven of the last eight editions of the Tour, masterminded by team principal and wily tactician Dave Brailsford.
The Dauphine's fourth day heads 153.5km from Ugine to Megeve through the Alps with Jumbo-Visma's Roglic holding a 14 seconds lead over second-placed Frenchman and fellow Tour hopeful Thibaut Pinot.
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Last year's winner Bernal dropped off the lead group on the long Grand Colombier climb and appeared to lose his chance of retaining the title as he dropped to 13th overall, 8 minutes 25 seconds off the yellow jersey.