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Egan Bernal could return to racing in 2022, hints coach

'La Gazzetta dello Sport' reports that Bernal's coach believes the Ineos Grenadiers star will be able to return to his former level and perhaps even race this year.

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The trainer of Egan Bernal is optimistic the Colombian star can have a full recovery from his devastating accident in January.

That’s according to a report in La Gazzetta dello Sport, who quoted Basque trainer Xabier Artexte in Saturday’s edition, who even hinted that Bernal could return to racing as soon as this season.

“If we were to think of the standard times to recover, the answer would be no,” Artexte told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “However, Egan is a top-level sportsman and his recovery skills are also above average. I would not reject this possibility even without setting it as a fixed goal, it is an option that exists.

“Why not? He is working to get back as soon as possible. It could be 2023, but also the end of this year. We must not rule it out, far from it.”

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Bernal crashed during training in late January when he smashed into a parked bus in Colombia, resulting in devastating injuries that threatened not only his racing career but his life.

Recovery is going better than could have been hoped for, and Bernal is posting updates via his social media channels. On Friday, the 2019 Tour de France winner posted a message, “Good news coming soon.”

The “good news” came out Sunday, with an image of Bernal riding an indoor trainer for the first time.

Speaking to La Gazzetta during Tirreno-Adriatico this week, Artexte said Ineos Grenadiers still has not put a timeline on a possible return to competition, and insisted that Bernal’s full recovery is the first priority.

Artexte said he believes Bernal can return to the highest level of competition.

“I have always told the team doctor: yes, I have faith in this, that he will return to the highest level,” Artexte said. “I know what I’m saying has no scientific basis, because you can’t know what’s going to happen. But I see him working, and once he has achieved strong musculoskeletal stability again, he may even be able to correct some decompensation that was there before, be more balanced.

“He has a motivation, an incredible desire to return,” he continued. “It will also be stronger psychologically. Without forgetting that in a path like yours you don’t always improve, there could be occasional small pains, moments of tiredness, a few steps backwards. Fortunately, up to now, there have been no problems.”

Artexte was also in Colombia on the day of the accident, but said he was 10 minutes behind the crash site because he was doing a lactate test on another Ineos Grenadiers riders.

The Basque trainer said the team is working closely with medical staff in Colombia to continue Bernal’s full recovery.

“The wounds have healed and so he will be able to work in the swimming pool, the hydrotherapy,” he said. “Ride? More than anything else it depends on the back because the knee and hip are OK.

“Little by little, he is pedaling from a seated position now,” he said. “Right now, he will not be able to go out on the street, but in the most ergonomic position possible, the most comfortable, he will be able to ride at home on an adapted bike. We are working on a cycle ergometer, with the appropriate measures. I have already ordered this bike.”