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California champ Egan Bernal in line for Tour de France debut

FLORENCE (VN) — Colombia’s new star Egan Bernal, winner of the recent Amgen Tour of California, is in line to support his Sky teammate Chris Froome in the 2018 Tour de France next month.

The British super team is due to announce its Tour roster later this month, but Bernal is already on the long list with about a dozen others. Despite his young age of 21, he won California and the Oro y Paz and placed second in the Tour de Romandie this season.

“It’s not yet certain that I’ll race the Tour, but I’m in the pre-selection,” he told El Espectador during a break while training at home in Colombia.

“And I understand the criticism, people say I’m too young and I have to grow step by step, they don’t want to see me burn myself up.”

El Espectador reported that an internal decision could be made as soon as Monday that would put the Colombian on the path to his grand tour debut in the Tour de France. The race starts July 7 in Vendee.

Froome will be racing for a fifth Tour de France title. Spots are limited on the team, with Geraint Thomas also taking a leadership role.

This year, the grand tour teams are limited to eight men. Sky will likely take Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon, with other spots possibly going to Sergio Henao, David López, Luke Rowe, Wout Poels, and Dylan Van Baarle.

Sky will look into the risk of burning out Bernal before he can fully develop. He already fast-tracked to this point, winning the Sibiu Cycling Tour and Tour de l’Avenir in 2017 with team Androni-Sidermec. Sky signed him for 2018 and he has continued to rocket ahead.

“Team Sky will certainly not say that I have to win the Tour. That is just the beauty of the team, they hardly put pressure on me. In the Tour, that would be the same,” he said.

“If I go to the Tour, I will compete for the goal of the team: to help Chris Froome win his fifth Tour victory, I would completely empty myself for him. It would be special if I could say afterwards that I helped Froome win.”

Not only is Froome looking for his fifth yellow jersey, he’s also seeking to pull off the Giro-Tour double. Last month, he came from 3:22 behind in the closing days of the Giro d’Italia to win the pink jersey.

Bernal would be thrown into the deep end. Instead of debuting in the Giro or the Vuelta a España, he would start in the most prestigious of the grand tours.

He said, “It would be very nice to race it, a dream come true.”

Bernal will win multiple grand tours in the coming years, his former manager at team Androni told VeloNews last month.

“It’s too early to take him to the Tour,” Gianni Savio said. “Sky will bring a team to win the Tour with Chris Froome, and they need an experienced team and a team that is strong enough to work at the top level for three weeks.

“I believe that Sky will take him to the Vuelta. With me, Egan progressed slowly step by step for two years. The Tour is too much for a first grand tour rider.”

Bernal is penciled in to race the four-day La Route d’Occitanie in France next week. Even if the decision is already made internally in these days, Sky should announce its eight-man Tour team after the June 9-17 Tour de Suisse.

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