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VN ticker: Bernal confident of pre-San Juan form, Bettiol’s fine halved, Spanish rider dies after 24 years in coma

Here's what's making headlines on Saturday, January 21.

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Egan Bernal confident of pre-Vuelta a San Juan form

Returning star Egan Bernal is backing his form ahead of his season debut at the coming week’s Vuelta a San Juan.

“We probably could compare [my form] with the sensations I had at the same point in previous years,” Bernal told the media ahead of the Argentine race.

“I’m doing the same training that I used to do back then and I’m doing well. So my projection for the year ahead is pretty good.”

Bernal is swinging for a strong comeback after his horror crash, long layoff, and uneven racing restart in 2022.

A high-profile return to the Tour de France with Ineos Grenadiers marks the center of his season in what will be the 25-year-old’s first grand tour in some 22 months.

Bernal hasn’t raced the French tour since 2020, in which time Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar stormed to the top of the stage-race scene.

“My ambitions [for the Tour] will depend on how I feel, but at the moment I’m feeling good, and I want to be there in the best way possible,” Bernal said. “I guess we’ll see as the races go by and we get nearer to that date.”

Commissaires trim Alberto Bettiol’s fine by half

Alberto Bettiol saw his fine and penalty reduced by the race jury. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Alberto Bettiol saw his fine and points penalty slashed by half overnight by the commissaires at the Santos Tour Down Under.

The Italian was initially fined 2000 Swiss franc and penalized by 100 UCI points during a tantrum during the second stage when he tossed water bottles and gesticulated at TV cameras.

Bettiol was suffering cramps, and was gapped out of the leading group to cede the leader’s jersey.

The race jury cited the following rule: “UCI Regulation 2.12.007.8.2.2 Assault, intimidation, insult, improper conduct or behavior that is indecent, directed at TV motorbike.”

The commissaires later reduced that fine to 1000CHF, and more importantly to 50 UCI points.

EF Education-EasyPost will be pleased. With teams scrambling to earn points in the ongoing relegation/promotion battle, every point counts.

Spanish rider dies after 24 years in a coma

A Spanish rider died overnight in Spain after being in a coma for 24 years.

Raúl García Álvarez was an up-and-coming rider when he crashed into ravine during the Vuelta Ciclista a la Sierra Norte de Madrid in 1998. He was only 17 at the time of the crash.

Family members continued to care for him, and he spent the next 24 years in a coma, and he died overnight, family members confirmed.