Paris, Nov 23 (AFP): Colombian cyclist Egan Bernal will bid to reclaim the Tour de France title in 2022, the Ineos rider confirmed to press in his homeland Tuesday.
Bernal won the Tour de France in style aged just 22 in 2019, but the climbing sensation withdrew injured half-way through the 2020 edition and skipped the following year to race and win the Giro d’Italia.
In his absence the even younger Slovenian Tadej Pogacar of Team UAE Emirates won back-to-back Tour de France titles and is now considered the man to beat.
But the prospect of seeing Bernal try to wrestle the title from Pogacar’s iron grip is a mouthwatering proposition.
When cycling magazine Mundo Ciclistico asked Bernal, who turns 25 in January, if he would race the Tour de France in 2022 he confirmed he would.
“The answer is yes,” said Bernal, who emerged from the shadow of teammate Welshman Geraint Thomas over the culminating high-altitude Alpine peaks to win his Tour in 2019.
“That is clear. We will focus all our training, preparations and force on getting ready for the Tour de France this year,” he said.
“It’s time to go back, to return to the paths we found in 2019, and which I moved away from slightly,” said Bernal.
As the Giro d’Italia finishes less than three weeks before the Tour begins in 2022 the news suggests he would likely miss the Italian race, of which he speaks so highly.
“Winning the Giro was of enormous personal and sporting significance for me personally, my team and for Colombians,” said the man who raced as a neo-pro in Italy.
“It took huge physical and mental strength to win the Giro, and I’ll never forget it.”
“I think I’m over the back injury but the results on the bike will show if that’s right,” he said of the niggling back complaint that came to the fore during his Tour de France defence.
“I’ll be starting my season in Europe,” he said.
The 2022 Tour starts with three stages in Copenhagen and, in the words of its designer Thierry Gouvenou, will suit only ‘complete riders’ who can thrive on any surface and in any conditions.
Bernal, who grew up in the Andes, can look forward to five finishes at high altitude, one of them at 2400 metres.
But given his slight frame, he may struggle more on the windy 17km bridge over the sea in Denmark, on the 19 kilometres of cobblestones in France’s northern mining region, or on the 40km of time-trialling.