News that Egan Bernal will target the Tour de France in 2022 has been greeted with optimism in his native Colombia, where there's belief that he can topple defending champion Tadej Pogačar.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider won the Tour in 2019 aged just 22 but failed to defend his title the following year after suffering from a back injury. He returned to form this spring by winning the Giro d'Italia comfortably.
Now Bernal is preparing to return to the Tour and stop Pogačar's run of two successive victories. To do that he will also have to better Primož Roglič, the winner of the past three editions of the Vuelta a España.
The 2022 Tour route packs in 53 time trialling kilometres that will suit the aforementioned Pogačar and Roglič, but Lisandro Rengifo, a journalist with the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, says that Bernal should not be discounted.
"To win against the two best riders in the world right now, two five-star riders, is difficult, but it's not impossible," he told Cycling Weekly.
"Egan has recovered his form, his confidence, and can ride alongside them. The country hopes - maybe expects - this to happen. He is once again a rider who can compete with these two.
"And I think he's a different Egan to before because he has more experience and has won two Grand Tours.
"It is very difficult to beat Roglič and Pogačar when there are so many time trialling kilometres and when they can climb so well.
"But Egan can climb really well and he has everything alongside him. This is also a sport, it's cycling: riders fall, things happen that could benefit Egan."
Bernal's victory in the Giro, alongside a sixth place at the Vuelta, has given the host nation faith in the young rider once again.
"The opinion of Egan in Colombia is very positive right now," Rengifo added. "He won the Giro, taking his opportunity to return to a top level.
"The country seen his recovery and has a reason to believe in him again. The country's taken confidence that he can win Grand Tours, although they never not believed."
Before the Giro, Bernal rode to a very impressive third place at Strade Bianche, just a few days after finishing second at the Trofeo Laigueglia. In 2019 he won the Gran Piemonte race in Italy and followed that up with third at Il Lombardia.
Bernal, therefore, is also able to compete against two-time Monument winner Pogačar in one-day races.
"He has demonstrated that he is a modern cyclist," Rengifo said. "Pogačar and Roglič are the same: they win titles in three-week races, one-week races and one-day events. Egan has responded to those challenges."
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