While Egan Bernal will face stiff competition for sole leadership of Ineos at the Tour de France this summer, he has been given a big vote of confidence from another team, the Colombian national cycling federation, who have told him he will be on the start line for the nation at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 234km men’s road race features 4,865 metres of climbing and suits Bernal’s abilities.
“I am very happy because they told me that I am going to the Olympics,” Bernal told Marca. “It is very good news because for other riders it can be a complicated process. There’s also Miguel Ángel López, Nairo Quintana and others who also deserve to race.
“I am very happy with the confidence that the national federation has shown me. We are already looking at everything because the Olympic and Tour come close after each other.”
The Tokyo road race begins just six days after the Tour de France finishes on the Champs-Élysées, where Bernal will hope he is on the top step of the podium resplendent in yellow one year after his debut win.
The peloton seems split on how best to approach winning a gold medal, with some opting to skip the Tour de France and arrive in Japan with fresh legs, such as Vincenzo Nibali and Romain Bardet, while Chris Froome hopes to ride the Tour and then go straight onto the Olympics.
Alejandro Valverde has said he will quit the Tour de France early in order to prepare for the Tokyo road race, and will repeat this tactic at the Vuelta a España as he targets reclaiming his rainbow bands at the road world championships in Switzerland.
The 23-year-old seems to be on track as he begins his season, and although he finished second at the recent Tour Colombia to Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) he was content with his performance.
“I didn’t win but I also didn’t expect to have such good feelings. I felt very good and that calms the nerves a bit. I am very satisfied with my numbers, with what I achieved. It is a very beautiful race, it is very well organised and has a lot of credibility with foreign teams and riders,” Bernal said.