Egan Bernal has said he doesn’t think he’ll sacrifice himself for a team-mate if he’s on top form at the Tour de France, and neither does he expect anyone else to for him.
The Colombian has said the road will decide which of Ineos’ three Tour winners will lead the team at the French race and that he understands the difficulty for the team of having three active champions on the same roster.
“I clearly understand the team in this situation. For them, let’s say, it could be interesting to win a fifth Tour de France with Chris, or another Tour with Geraint Thomas. At the end of the day, they are two British riders and it’s a British team, that’s something important for them. So I understand, let’s say, the position of the team,” Bernal told Spanish Eurosport.
“I also understand the position of Geraint Thomas, who wants to win his second Tour. In the past two Tours he was first and second so he’s a rider that very much has to be taken into account. I also understand Chris Froome, who wants to win his fifth Tour. Given everything that has happened to him, it would be the best way to come back for him.
“But I also put myself in a position. I’m young, I’ve already won one Tour de France, and I’m not going to throw away an opportunity to win another Tour de France, that’s for sure. That I would sacrifice myself being at 100 per cent…I don’t think I’m going to do that, nor will anyone.”
Previously, the British team have successfully managed having more than one rider within their Tour squad capable of winning the yellow jersey. In 2018, Geraint Thomas found himself ahead of Chris Froome after just stage one, then taking the yellow jersey on stage 11 and holding it to Paris.
Then, in 2019, another Ineos defending champion in Thomas was forced to make way for a successor, as Egan Bernal became Colombia’s first Tour champion. For Bernal, the 23-year-old says he’s happy to see what happens when racing begins.
“What I think will happen is we’ll wait to see how each rider arrives at the Tour. We haven’t raced and so we don’t know what shape everyone will get there in. For me, what the team’s doing is really good – waiting to see how each rider arrives and then, it might sound cliché, but the road will decide,” he said.
“Once the first stages are out of the way, we’re quickly going to see what position Froome’s in, what position I’m in, and what position Thomas is in, and little by little the outlook will be clearer. In this moment in time, even as reigning champion, I can’t go to the team and tell them I’m the only leader, because as I said I understand there’s also Froome and Thomas and I understand the position of the team.
“At the moment, it’s a question of having a cool head, staying focused on my training and trying to do things as well as possible, to get to the Tour and then things will fall into place.”
With the Tour de France delayed by two months, now slated for August 29 – September 20, Ineos boss Dave Brailsford believes four-time champion Froome will benefit the most.
“He’s not complaining [about the delay], let’s put it that way,” Brailsford told the Times in April. “The one thing about Chris is wow, the guy can train. What he’s doing in his man cave over there – in the gym in the morning, on the turbo, the hours he is putting in on that thing — that hurts, what he is doing now.
“You don’t have the flexibility of being outside, you don’t have the mental stimulus. So to put himself through what he is doing is just insane, it really is. And I do think he sees it as an opportunity. And it is an opportunity, let’s face it.
“If it gives him a little edge where he thinks he can train harder than the rest, and make up for lost time when he was injured, he sees that as well as everybody else and he’s making the most of it, there’s no doubt about it.”