Egan Bernal, after crashing a week before his chance to lead Team Ineos at the Giro d’Italia, is back on his bike building for the Tour de France.
Team principal David Brailsford is planning for him to race either the Tour de Suisse or the Critérium du Dauphiné in June before the Tour alongside Chris Froome and defending champion Geraint Thomas.
“We have a meeting this afternoon with his coach,” Brailsford said on Thursday. “But he is back on the bike.”
The 22-year-old Colombian won Paris-Nice this year and was due to lead Team Ineos at the Giro.
He fell last week in training in Andorra, having been riding with Tao Geoghegan Hart, who turned off to go home. Shortly afterwards, Bernal fell going around a roundabout.
Bernal immediately underwent surgery on his fractured collarbone so that he could return to racing as soon as possible. Last year, he returned after a Volta a Cataluyna crash one month later, winning his first WorldTour victory in the stage three time trial of the Tour de Romandie.
“Collarbones these days are pretty quick operations and they heal really quickly, so you won’t lose too much condition,” Brailsford said. “It’s a question of managing that peak condition between now and July. Normally we expect him to do Suisse or Dauphiné and then go to the Tour.”
After winning the Oro y Paz and the Tour of California overall, he made his Grand Tour debut in the Tour de France last year, helping Froome to third place overall and Thomas to the victory.
For 2019, some say he could already be a leader alongside Froome and Thomas in the Tour.
“You can’t say that because we first have to get him over his injury and get him fit enough,” Brailsford added.
“The facts of life are that every rider will turn up to the Tour de France to be in the best condition and that condition determines how the team will run.”
Brailsford’s first consideration is managing the Giro d’Italia team without Bernal. He named 21-year-old Russian Pavel Sivakov and 24-year-old Londoner Tao Geoghegan Hart as the team’s two leaders.
“It is exciting because they’re all on a steep trajectory [of] learning. It is like going back in time 10 years with Geraint, Chris and Bradley [Wiggins]. It’s nice to feed off and give these young guys the opportunities,” Brailsford said.
The team calculated the average age of the Giro roster at 25 – their youngest Grand Tour team ever. The team includes Eddie Dunbar (22 years old), Sebastian Henao (25), Jhonatan Narvaez (22) and Ivan Sosa (21). Dunbar, Narvaez and Sosa are making their Grand Tour debut in the Giro.
“They are very exciting and young developing riders, that’s what we can call them,” Brailsford continued, looking over his shoulders to Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart.
“We haven’t seen them confirm how they will be in Grand Tours. It’s way too early to draw direct comparisons to our big Grand Tour leaders.
“As I say, it’s important to coach them to the age. You can’t take the same approach that you take with Geraint or Chris. This is like Geraint 10 years ago. They’re super young. You have to moderate the style of your coaching.”
Sivakov gave Sky its last win as team sponsor, taking the overall of the Tour of the Alps over a week ago. Geoghegan Hart helped him, winning two stages and placing second overall.
As of May 1, Ineos chemical company took over the team, who are now starting a new chapter after 10 years.