Egan Bernal has said he doesn't know if he will ride the 2020 Tour de France yet and that it will depend on his Ineos team, who will have a roster stacked with GC riders next year.
In sentiments that have been echoed by Ineos riders over the past couple of years as their top riders compete for the leadership role at the Tour, the 22-year-old says his primary concern is doing what is best for the team as a whole.
"I will not make the decision [to ride the Tour] for fear of not being leader," Bernal told Spanish newspaper AS (opens in new tab), "I will do it with the team. Nor was I the leader in the last edition I won."
His last point is a valid one, with Ineos' 2018 winner Geraint Thomas also not arriving at the French Grand Tour with the plan of taking the yellow jersey to Paris. Instead, four-time winner Chris Froome was preparing for a tilt at a record-equalling fifth title but the Welshman took the lead and didn't let go of it until he was on the podium in the French capital.
Just as Thomas returned this year and came close to defending his title, finishing second behind Bernal, the Colombian says his wish is to return to the Tour, but will ultimately rely on team manager Dave Brailsford to make the decision.
"I would like to return, obviously, because I would like to defend the title, but it is clear that there are more factors," Bernal said. "Let's see what the team decides and what Dave [Brailsford] thinks. I'm looking forward to it but I am also aware that there are other prestigious races...we will make the decision together."
Alongside Ineos' three Grand Tour winners in Bernal, Froome and Thomas, another will join the British squad in 2020. Richard Carapaz won a surprise Giro d'Italia with Movistar this year, earning himself a three-year contract with the richest team in the professional peloton.
This added competition won't create further complications in the team's hierarchy, according to Bernal, who points out that in 2018 Ineos, riding as Team Sky back then, won the Tour with himself, Thomas and Froome all riding as part of the eight-man squad.
"We have already competed in a Tour with Froome, Thomas and myself and it went well. It's true that Richard Carapaz now arrives, but I don't think it's a problem," Bernal said. "In the end it is the road that makes the difference. And in this team, from my experience, we are riders who do not get nervous with these situations. In the moment, we will know who is the strongest and the rest will support you. Nor do I think it is healthy to 'kill' your head thinking about who is going to be a leader and who is not."
The 2020 Tour route was announced earlier in the week, with Bernal and Froome both present for the presentation in Paris. The Colombian says it will be a "pretty unusual Tour" and agrees with Froome on how tough the parcours will be.
"Well, I think it's going to be a pretty unusual Tour. My first impression is that it is for a climber. That there is no team time trial or even a flat individual time trial, that already makes important differences. The only time trial finishes uphill, which makes it necessary to be very strong in the mountains.
"But anyway, this is the Tour, and to win it you have to be a very complete rider. I am still yet to sit down and analyse it, but at first glance I would say that it will be a tougher Tour than last year."
Discussions are likely to take place in the coming weeks and months within the Ineos camp over who will target which races next year, with Geraint Thomas hinting he'd be happy to ride the Giro and attempt to add another Grand Tour to his palmarès.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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