Cycling fans will have to wait a little longer than anticipated to see Egan Bernal face off against Tadej Pogačar as the Colombian is still suffering from a knee injury that forced him out of Vuelta a San Juan.
The Ineos Grenadiers leader had been scheduled to start his European season at the Ruta del Sol tomorrow but has withdrawn to give his knee more time to recover.
Ruta del Sol would have seen a clash with UAE Emirates team leader Pogačar but the pair will not race against each other now until Paris-Nice next month.
A spokesperson for Ineos Greandiers said: “Egan’s left knee is still not 100% race ready following his crash in San Juan, and much as he’d like to race there is no point risking its recovery.”
Bernal had been in fine attacking form in Argentina before he crashed.
His form there had added extra intrigue to his upcoming battle with Pogačar at Ruta del Sol as the pair have not squared off against each other in anger since Tirreno Adriatico in 2021.
Ineos Grenadiers have not ruled out Bernal taking to the startline before Paris-Nice. Were he to do so at Strade Bianche on 3 March then he would also come face-to-face with Pogačar.
Failing that they’ll first meet at Paris-Nice, which starts two days later.
The race to the sun boasts one of its most stacked GC fields in recent memory with Pogačar, Bernal, defending Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) and Romain Bardet (DSM) all slated to start.
It could prove an important marker on the recovery of Bernal who is still on the comeback trail after his nearly career-ending crash in January last year while out training. In the incident he collided with a bus and suffered 20 broken bones and required seven separate surgeries.
He returned to racing in August last year but only races a selection of smaller races and did not finish either of the stage races that he entered.
His goal remains to return to Tour de France winning form this summer. Through a combination of scheduling and injury he has not contested a grand tour against the two most recent winners Pogačar or Vingegaard since he rode the tour in 2020 when Pogačar won and he was forced to retire after being plagued a back injury that he’d entered the race with and compromised his challenge from the start.
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