Egan Bernal 'empty' after Giro victory, doesn't think he'll be able to race Tour de France

The Colombian declares himself 'back in the game' alongside the likes of Roglič and Pogačar, saying he felt lost after 2019 Tour victory

Egan Bernal
(Image credit: Getty)

It's a cruel aspect of professional sport that almost as soon as you've secured one victory people immediately begin asking you about the next.

Egan Bernal had barely climbed off his time trial bike, having secured the Giro d'Italia maglia rosa in Milan, before facing questions as to whether he'll race the Tour de France in a few weeks, or maybe try and win the Vuelta a España later in the season.

"It’s hard to do the Giro and the Tour in the same year," Bernal said in his winner's press conference. "Look at me now, I'm really empty. I don't think I'll be able to do the Tour."

Interestingly, however, both Bernal and his boss Dave Brailsford have left the door ajar to the Colombian's possible inclusion. Brailsford also wouldn't rule it out completely speaking to GCN after stage 21, although Geraint Thomas appears for the time being to still be Plan A, as the Welshman warms up at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Bernal credits Brailsford for helping him recalibrate after his disappointment at the Tour last year, abandoning as rivals Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič were on another level compared to the rest of the field. Bernal went for dinner with Brailsford, the Colombian revealed, saying they refocused Bernal's ambitions on having fun, which he says he had this Giro.

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"This Giro I really had fun. After the [2020] Tour I spoke with Brailsford and the two of us know I need to have fun and be calm on the bike," Bernal said. "Brailsford was the person who helped me the most in this process. Have fun on the bike. If I want to go for the intermediate sprint on a flat stage then do it. Do whatever helps you win. Brailsford has a big part in this victory."

It feels like a long march back for Bernal, but in actual fact it has been less than two years from the heights of winning the 2019 Tour to his second Grand Tour victory at this Giro.

"After the 2019 Tour de France I had a very difficult period," Bernal explains. "I think that period afterwards was more difficult than winning the Tour itself. Winning the Giro is an explosion of many emotions. At the same time, I see many strong riders, Roglič and Pogačar around me, so now I'm back in the game. They give me motivation."

'Back in the game' is a phrase Bernal has already used during this race, and his mention of the Slovenian duo and his desire to beat them is a mouthwatering prospect for cycling. The talent of those two seems to play a part in pulling him back into the sport. Because before they rose to the height of their powers, of course, Bernal had looked, for a moment, unparalleled.

"I won the Tour, I was still very young and afterwards I didn't know what to do with my life," Bernal elaborated. "To win the Tour was the dream and I had to find the motivation to win again, the grit to work hard. 

"I was training but I was not the same Egan. I also had some difficulties in my personal life. I also then had that problem with my back. But I had no doubt I could get back to my best level. Now I am still hungry, I want to win more."

How much more he wants to win is another question. One journalist in the press conference asks the 24-year-old about a rumour that Bernal isn't concerned with winning multiple Grand Tours, but rather wants to seal the treble with the Vuelta and then go back to Colombia and become a journalist himself.

"I won a Tour and a Giro so now I want to win the Vuelta," Bernal confirmed. "It’s true that in the past I thought about being a journalist but now I think it’d be best to be back home with my animals, cows, chickens and a dog, my family and girlfriend. I don't need much to be happy, I don't need many things, don't need to win many things."

That day will eventually come, but before that, it seems Bernal isn't done winning just yet.