Ineos Grenadiers remain committed to selecting Egan Bernal for Tour de France
The Colombian withdrew from the Volta a Catalunya after a stage six crash
Egan Bernal remains firmly in Ineos Grenadiers’ Tour de France plans, despite the Colombian’s withdrawal at last week's Volta a Catalunya and lack of form.
The 26 year old is continuing his recovery from last year's horrendous training ride crash, but was forced to abandon midway through stage six of the Catalan race when he was brought down in a crash.
He was taken to a local hospital where, according to his team, "images showed no signs of fractures". They continued: "Further medical assessment will continue over the next few days and treatment for skin abrasions he sustained."
It was Bernal’s first race back since he similarly withdrew from January’s Vuelta a San Juan because of pain in his left knee, an injury that forced him to take three weeks off the bike.
Despite the stop-start nature of the two-time Grand Tour winner’s season, however, Bernal is intent on being on the Tour's startline in Bilbao on July 1.
“I would like to go to the Tour. It’s the most important race in the world and it’s been my objective since the start of the year. Time will say if I am ready. If I am not good, it’ll be better if I don’t go,” he said last week.
His team are prepared to give the 2019 Tour champion every possible chance to achieve his ambitions. “Even just his presence at the Tour would be great, to help, to see what he can do,” the team’s DS and former rider Christian Knees told Cycling Weekly.
“How does he develop? Will he continue to do well? Does his progression continue? I can’t say there’s a specific marker. If he continues like he has done previously, if he now stays healthy, then that’s the marker.”
It appears most likely that Ineos’ leaders at the Tour will be Dani Martínez and Carlos Rodríguez, but just having Bernal on the team bus will be an advantage, believes Knees.
“I would say Egan in a shape that is better than we see now - which is already a good shape - is definitely able to contribute to the team in any role,” the German said. “People will also know he is capable. We see here [in Catalonia] that he is recovering well, he is coping well, so I think it could be beneficial for the team and also for Egan. If you get three weeks in your legs, it’s a huge step forward.”
Before his abandonment at Catalunya, Bernal - and the rest of his Ineos teammates - put in an understated performance, with 32nd on stage one his best result.
Bernal said early in the race that “the idea is to finish Catalunya in better shape than I started” and that “the other positive is that I don’t suffer any pain in my knee, which pleases me.”
The 2019 Tour champion still misses some of his abilities from before his crash, Knees explained, but he was “quite confident that building up this week, having a bit of rest and then going to the next race [that] he can progress further.”
He added: “It’s a little bit of punch [that he lacks], a little percent at the top end, but I am quite confident. It’s not only his knee - it’s still a progress from his massive crash. He has made a step-up [since his return to racing at the Tour of Denmark last August] but he’s not quite where he wants to be. He wants to be at the top end, the pointy end, but he is on a good way.
“He is looking good, even a little bit better than expected, and he is not just sitting in there and getting dropped. He is trying to survive, not giving up straight away.”
A few days before his crash in Catalonia, Bernal was also realistic about the short- and medium-term, pointing to other objectives later in the season, in case he isn’t deemed fit enough for Tour selection. “The season is long, and there are a lot of races left. So the important thing is to aim for the others,” he said.
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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