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The 2019 yellow jersey is on the fast-track back from the horror crash this January that left him riddled with broken bones and with a “95 percent chance” of becoming paraplegic.
A 12-day return to racing this summer and successful recent knee surgery sees the 25-year-old aiming for the sky in 2023.
“If everything goes well, I would like to return to the Tour. It would be an opportunity to try and do my best, whether that is just to finish, or maybe even do the GC and arrive in good shape,” Bernal told the Colombian radio show El Vbar Caraco this week.
Bernal’s harrowing high-speed training crash this winter left his career in jeopardy and saw the Colombian suffer a long and painful rehab process.
The former Tour de France and Giro d’Italia champ made a beyond-belief return to racing in August and is now looking to reclaim a seat at the front of the Ineos Grenadiers team bus.
“We talk about the ideal scenario. If everything goes well and I recover the strength I lost in my right leg, because I lost a lot of muscle due to the time I didn’t move, I would expect to ride an ordinary 2023 season. I have faith that it can be done,” Bernal said on radio Friday.
“I’ve got eight or nine months to try and achieve it, and mentally I feel ready for that. In fact, I think the break I had to take this year will help me. So for sure, I’d like to do a grand tour and hopefully, that’ll be the Tour.”
From Colombia Tour to the French Tour in 2023
Bernal has yet to clarify his program with Ineos Grenadiers team brass, and acknowledged to El Vbar Caraco a number of unknowns and “what-ifs” enshroud his convalescence and racing condition.
Nonetheless, Bernal sketched out a best-case schedule for 2023 that starts on home roads at Colombia Tour in February.
Also on the wish-list are the WorldTour level Paris-Nice, Strade Bianche, and Critérium du Dauphiné before a return to the Tour for the first time since he flamed out with injury in 2020.
Ineos Grenadiers faces a pivotal season restructuring around youth as grand tour stars Richard Carapaz, Richie Porte and Adam Yates all retire or switch squads this winter.
Veteran Welshman Geraint Thomas is mulling a trip to the Giro d’Italia rather than the Tour for what could be his last season next year.
Bernal’s return in 2023 to a grand tour frame now dominated by Jumbo-Visma and UAE Emirates could come perfectly timed for his British team.