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Bernal aims at completing grand tour set

Colombian star hopes to win all three grand tours in his career with a Giro debut possibly in the cards for 2021.

Egan Bernal has big ambitions for his young career.

Despite only having the Tour de France under his belt so far, the young Colombian is looking to join the exclusive club of those that have won all three grand tours, which includes cycling legends Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Jacques Anquetil. And when he’s done that, he’s eyeing a shot at the notorious challenge of winning back-to-back grand tours in one season.

When speaking to La Stampa this week, the 23-year-old described his long-term objective as being to “conquer the three big stage races, then add the Giro and Vuelta to the Tour. They are the races that fascinate me the most.”

While a defense of his Tour title is the only three-week race in Bernal’s schedule for 2020 so far, he is hoping to make his Giro d’Italia debut next year. Bernal was all-set to race last year’s event only to be forced out by a training crash just days before the opening stage.

“I have the Giro in my heart, and I could do it in 2021, but when I go there it will be to try to win it and then maybe to try also the double with the Tour,” Bernal said.

Bernal stirred a hornet’s nest last month with defiant comments regarding sharing Tour leadership duties with teammates Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. However, when speaking with La Stampa this week, he reverted to the team’s tried-and-tested message regarding its multiple GC options.

“Let’s say we start on equal terms,” Bernal stated. “I have faith in the team and in the strategy that will decide. There is an excellent relationship with Froome and Thomas, we will behave with fairness and honesty, as professionals. Then, as always, the road will decide.”

With less than three months remaining until the Tour rolls out of Nice on August 29, Bernal described himself as in “excellent” form after spending the spring training at home in the thin air of Zipaquirà.

Bernal’s compatriot Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) recently referenced the benefits afforded to South Americans who have spent lockdown at altitude, also discussing his nation’s strong odds at the hilly Swiss world championship course. Bernal is as yet uncertain as to whether he will represent his country at this September’s worlds however.

“I like it [the course], it is made for climbers but it will be necessary to see how I will exit the Tour,” Bernal said. “It is difficult to aim for the podium in France and to be at the top of the world championship just a week later.”

While Bernal’s schedule for the rest of the season is yet to be confirmed, he referenced his desire to take on hilly monuments Il Lombardia and Liège-Bastogne-Liège this fall. Having spent time living in Canavese, Bernal has discussed his love of racing in Italy before, and last year took third place at Il Lombardia behind Bauke Mollema and Alejandro Valverde.

There are murmurs that this year’s “Race of the Falling Leaves” may be brought forward from its current October slot to August 8, in which case, Bernal stated he would have to bypass the race to concentrate on preparing for the Tour. He admitted that the clashes and overlaps running through the UCI’s rescheduled 2020 calendar were far from ideal, but he sure wasn’t going to complain about it.

“This is not the time to create controversy, but to think about how and where to finally return to racing to restore oxygen to cycling,” he said.