The Team Ineos captain was among 60 cyclists who flew from Colombia to Spain over the weekend. After four months without racing due to the coronavirus, the big question for Bernal is the same for everyone else — how will they react to racing?
“I first want to see where my level is at,” Bernal told reporters in Madrid on Monday. “I will join my teammates in Andorra and then start to prepare for my upcoming races. The best thing to do is to go step by step.”
While Ineos teammates Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas are on Spain’s Tenerife, training at altitude on the Teide volcano, Bernal and another group of Ineos riders will gather in Andorra. The principality high in the Pyrénées provides an altitude advantage, but after four months in Colombia, Bernal won’t need it.
“It’s been a while since I’ve raced, so like everyone else, a new season begins,” Bernal said. “No one could have ever imagined that such a pandemic would impact the world as it did. It’s a different kind of season, so you have to keep both feet on the ground. We’re going through some complicated times, and you have to take things as best you can so things turn out OK.”
Bernal, who told journalists in Colombia before leaving on the flight he would help co-captains Froome or Thomas win the Tour if needed, will ease back into Europe with several days in Andorra.
Bernal is expected to return to racing with a string of races in France, including the Route de l’Occitanie (August 1-4), Tour de l’Ain (August 7-9), and Critérium du Dauphiné (August 12-16) before heading to Nice for the start of the Tour on August 29.
“I’ve trained for this, but this is a completely different kind of season,” Bernal said. “We haven’t raced so first I want to go to Andorra and see my form. Then I want to enjoy the first races in France before the Tour, and then we’ll see what level I have. That’s when everything will start.”