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Egan Bernal on Tour de France return: ‘Pogačar and Roglič are not unbeatable’

The 2019 winner said the long, closing time trial is giving him second thoughts about a return to the Tour de France, but vowed to follow team orders.

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Egan Bernal seems destined for a high-profile clash with Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič in the 2022 Tour de France.

After flaming out of the 2020 Tour with injury, the Colombia star at Ineos Grenadiers is bracing for a Tour comeback under team orders next season.

Speaking on Colombian television, Bernal said the Slovenian duo is not unbeatable.

“They are very strong, and they’re doing important things, but I also believe no one is unbeatable,” Bernal said on the show Ciclismo entre Grandes.” “You can have a bad day, and that’s it.”

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Pogačar won two straight yellow jerseys, and Roglič appears to be the only rider who can take it straight to the UAE Emirates captain.

Bernal, who made history as the first Colombian to win in 2019, said he’ll return to the Tour with every intention of winning.

“Roglič still hasn’t even won the Tour,” Bernal said. “A lot of things can happen, like getting caught out in a split. That’s already happened to Pogačar in the year he won. It’s not only physical, but also strategy, knowing where to be in the peloton, and paying attention. You can beat them, or at least believe in it.”

A return to the Tour de France is on the cards

Egan Bernal won the Tour de France in 2019
Egan Bernal won the Tour de France in 2019, can he return to the top? (Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Bernal, who turns 25 next month, said a return to the Tour is overdue.

Last year, he raced and won the Giro d’Italia, and then rode to sixth in his debut at the Vuelta a España.

“We’ll have to speak with the team, but I’ll do what the team says and you have to respect that,” Bernal said. “I believe it’s time to return to the Tour. It’s been practically two years since I’ve raced it because in 2020 I abandoned. I want to return and prepare for it the best way possible. The last stage is a time trial, and that makes one think.”

Bernal, however, still isn’t discounting a return to the Giro in 2022. The course favors him compared to the Tour, which sees the most kilometers against the clock in a decade, something that will not favor him against the likes of Pogačar and Roglič.

“The Giro has a good course for me and I like it,” Bernal continued. “I don’t want to just follow the feelings, but study the route. I believe the team will decide what’s best.”

Bernal on the Vuelta: ‘I’d rather win the Vuelta than another Tour’

Egan Bernal TT lab
Egan Bernal hit the track recently to hone his time trial position ahead of a decisive 2022 season. (Photo: gebioMized)

When asked what race he’d like most to win, he didn’t hesitate — La Vuelta.

“If you ask me what I’d like to win, if it’s another Tour or the Vuelta, I’d prefer the Vuelta,” he said. “I’d become part of history, and I’d have the ‘triple crown.'”

Bernal, who rode to sixth in his Vuelta debut in 2021, admitted he didn’t arrive in the best condition. A bout of COVID-19 following his Giro victory threw the remainder of his season into turmoil and even hinted that he wanted to race the Tour instead of the Vuelta.

“I didn’t even want to go the Vuelta. The idea was to do the Giro-Vuelta, but when I finished the Giro and rested for seven days, I thought maybe going to the Tour wouldn’t be so bad, I could go without so much responsibility.

“When I got back to Colombia, I did a test, which wasn’t even required,” he said, referring to COVID-19. “They called me the next morning, and the last thing I thought about was having COVID. Then I had another 10 days off. The first days back in Colombia were terrible. I couldn’t touch the bike, and it was raining. I felt destroyed.

“I tried to arrive in good shape,” Bernal said of the Vuelta. “But the numbers don’t lie. I learned a lot more in this Vuelta than I did in any of the other races I’ve done.”

Bernal’s season debut still has not been defined, but he also confirmed that a trip to the world championships in Australia is not part of the plan for 2022.