Egan Bernal says he’s not feeling the pressure of leadership at the Tour de France this year, his first as a nominated leader of a team.
The 22-year-old only made his Grand Tour debut at the Tour de France last year, but such is his prodigious talent, he is already leading Team Ineos alongside defending champion Geraint Thomas.
Bernal had been selected as the team’s leader for the Giro d’Italia, but broke his collarbone shortly before the race in a training crash. After Chris Froome’s horrific crash took him out of the 2019 Tour, Bernal stepped up to be joint leader alongside Thomas.
A lot is expected from the Colombian after overall victories at Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse this year, but Bernal says he is enjoying the support of his team-mates rather than feeling any pressure to perform.
“It’s harder not to have them,” Bernal said when asked about expectations from his team-mates.
“When you have the support of your team it’s something nice. I’m sharing leadership with Thomas so if I do a good Tour, then that’s nice, but if not, I’m just 22 and it’s my second Grand Tour so I just want to enjoy [it].
“I don’t want to have pressure and maybe not enjoy the Tour because of the pressure the journalists put on me – that’s not me. “
Bernal, who already has five seconds over his team-mate Thomas after gapping him on stage three, sits sixth overall at 40 seconds to race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) after safely navigating the climbs of stage five.
He now faces the first proper mountain stage of this Tour to the steep summit finish of La Planche des Belles Filles on Thursday’s stage six, but Bernal says he feels more confident this year than he did on his Tour debut last year when he played a support role.
“I’m a little bit more confident. Last year I crashed and I lost time,” Bernal said about the opening week of the Tour.
“I came to the Tour de France last year with another mentality, to help the guys, so it was really different. Now I’m happy to have the support of the team and it’s really different when the guys are helping you.
“For sure [stage six] will be a really hard stage — the GC riders what to be in the front, want to win some seconds. It will be first contact with the high mountains so I’m sure it will be a really important day for us.”