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The 2019 Tour champ is clocking up some serious mileage as he looks to bounce back from a nagging injury that put a puncture in his yellow jersey defense in France last summer.
Bernal tapped out a solid 29-hour week of training on home roads in Colombia last week, including a 275km leg-shredder with Ineos Grenadiers teammate Brandon Rivera. In the two weeks before that, the 23-year-old clocked up a total of 50 hours of pedaling in the thin air of his home roads outside of Zipaquira.
Bernal hasn’t turned a pedal in anger since abandoning the Tour de France with back pain that was later diagnosed with scoliosis, and he now has a lot of ground to make up, quickly.
“I will have to train very hard,” Bernal told Colombian news outlet Noticias Caracol last week. “The truth is that we are preparing for the Tour de France — it is the most important race in the world,”
Bernal indicated that while his back injuries are subsiding, there are still a residual effects from the condition that left him going through months of rehab and sessions ironing out kinks in bike fit and form.
Judging by his recent training load, the wheels are very much in motion on Bernal’s recovery process. Digging back through Bernal’s training files suggests his training volume is only a fraction away from what it was this time last year as he heads toward what could be the most important season of his career so far.
Having risen to the top of the Ineos hierarchy thanks to his 2019 Tour victory and elevation to sole leader of the team at last summer’s Grande Boucle, Bernal will be returning to a very different landscape at the British squad in 2021. Last year, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richard Carapaz took a step up the GC hierarchy by salvaging the team’s season with success at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. 2021 will see Adam Yates and Daniel Martínez providing more stage racing firepower. Bernal will have to elbow for space as he reclaims his place at the top of the squad.
The young Colombian’s path back to the podium in Paris will be a tricky and testing one. That’s why he’s getting started early.