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Egan Bernal is planning on leading Ineos Grenadiers at a grand tour this season, but it may not be the one everyone was expecting.
The 2019 Tour de France champ is holding out hope for a leadership slot at the Giro d’Italia as he continues to come back from a back injury that put a premature end to his 2020 season.
“I would like to compete in the Giro 2021,” Bernal told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. “That would be the number one goal for me, even if I had said before that I would prepare for the Tour. However, we still have to get together with the team, I don’t know if I could go there as a leader, it will depend on my recovery.”
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Bernal faces a potentially make-or-break season this year as he returns to action in a squad packing more grand tour talent than most of the peloton combined.
Having not raced since flaming out in the Alps in the Tour last August, the 24-year-old will be stepping back into the fold of a team packing the experience and palmarès of Geraint Thomas, the rising stars of Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart, and new signing Adam Yates.
Bernal recently stated his ambition to line up at the Tour this summer, though what role he will play in a densely packed team is unclear. Team boss David Brailsford will have a very full hand to play when he assigns his team leaderships this season, and with the time trial-heavy Tour suiting Thomas’ big motor, the Welshman is a likely shoo-in at the top of the team set to go to France.
Bernal said he was optimistic about his progress as he rehabs a complicated back injury that saw him withdraw early from last year’s Criterium du Dauphine before bailing out of the Tour. The Colombian has been putting in some big miles training at home in Colombia and said he is seeing the results.
“It is much better,” he said. “I feel good and I am very motivated. I have not raced for four months, so I will be at my peak when I restart in February. I had all kinds of exams, with different results. It was difficult, but the problem was solved, I feel like a new cyclist.”