'There's an element of the unknown with Bernal and Evenepoel,' says Bradley Wiggins

The Tour de France winner says both GC contenders have their vulnerabilities despite impressing over first week

Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel at the 2021 Giro d'Italia
(Image credit: Getty)

Bradley Wiggins says both Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel have their vulnerabilities despite the young pair being the two strongest GC contenders so far during this opening week of the Giro d'Italia.

Speaking on his Eurosport podcast, the Bradley Wiggins Show, the former Tour de France winner says he expects Ineos Grenadiers, his old team, to take the race to the others potentially as soon as the tricky stage nine featuring a gravel climb to the finish.

But with both Evenepoel and Bernal, who currently sit second and third on GC, a few seconds down on pink jersey Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ), there are questions over their physical condition, Wiggins says.

"I don’t think anyone knows, I don’t think he knows," Wiggins said of whether Evenepoel can win the overall classification in his first race back since serious injury. "He said his legs were dead. It’s the longest he’s ever been into a race now after nine months off where he broke his pelvis. It could all just snap for him one day and he could lose a packet.

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"They’re both vulnerable in some ways. There is an element of the unknown with the pair of them. Is Bernal’s back going to hold up for three weeks?" Wiggins continued. 

"I think Ineos have the strongest team in the mountains. I think Bernal is going to put his marker down, potentially [on stage 9]. Is Evenepoel willing to push the envelope out enough to win the race or will he be satisfied with his first Giro, after nine months away, back racing to finish on the podium? Who knows?"

Bernal currently trails Evenepoel by only five seconds, with Astana's Aleksandr Vlasov a further eight seconds back in fourth, Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) fifth and 27 seconds behind the Belgian.

Wiggins sees Bernal's team as the one to watch, however, the British outfit having won multiple Grand Tours over the past decade.

"I just think they don’t mess around. They take the opportunities when they can. They will want to put their stamp on this race," Wiggins said. 

"They did it in the first week with Filippo Ganna. I think they will go for it. They’ll go on the offensive. They all want to put a marker down tomorrow. It could play out like that but I think they want to put Egan in a position to show the rest of the teams that 'we’re here and we mean business'.

"I know [what] Dave Brailsford [is like]. It is not for their ego or anything like that. You are safest when you’re in the peloton at the front. They like that role, given the responsibility of having to ride every day. That is ultimately what they train for. That is what the team they have got here is for."

Stage nine's mountain test will give further insight into the GC prospects of the various contenders before Tuesday's rest day, then followed by a flat day on stage 10 before more uphill kilometres in the second week.