Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) travelled on a charter flight from Colombia and arrived in Madrid Monday where spoke to the press outside Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport. The 23-year-old hopes to defend his title at the Tour de France held from August 29- September 20, but first, he says he needs to consider where his form is during an upcoming team training camp in Andorra and then once racing officially begins.
"I train for that but it is a different year, completely different. "We have not competed and for the moment what I want is to go to Andorra and see what level I am in. Then enjoy the races that will take place before the Tour. There we will look at what level I am, at what level are my colleagues. I think that will start from there," Bernal said in a report on the Spanish news outlet AS.
"The best thing is to go step by step, not get too far ahead of what may happen and just be here and now. Right now it is to go to the camp, see what level I am on. I haven't competed in a long time, nobody has. It is a different season but we must have our feet on the ground. We are going through a very difficult moment and we must try to do things well so that everything turns out well."
The cycling season was halted in March due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic but WorldTour racing is scheduled to resume at Strade Bianche on August 1. The UCI announced a revised calendar that will include all three Grand Tours, along with major one-day races and lower category races that will see the racing season into November.
The coronavirus pandemic has halted international flights to and from Colombia through August 31, however, special permission was granted for professional athletes to return to Europe on a charter flight on July 19. Bernal was one of 100 Colombian athletes aboard the flight along with his Ineos teammates Iván Sosa, Sebastián Henao and Brandon Rivera. Also on the flight were Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic), Rigoberto Uran (EF Pro Cycling), Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates).
"I believe that no one expected a pandemic to come and affect everyone, not just cyclists but the world in general. There are quite a few sectors that have been affected. No one expected something similar but you have to face it with maturity, try of doing things well, so that together we can get ahead," Bernal said.
Bernal will now travel to Andorra to join his teammates for an opening-season training camp and then he is expected to return to racing at the Route d'Occitanie.
Bernal will focus on the Tour de France but Team Ineos could potentially start three leaders with 2018 winner Geraint Thomas and four-time winner Chris Froome, who will be moving to Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021. For now, Bernal said he isn’t looking too far ahead and just wants to enjoy the racing.
"We have to try to make the best of these moments. Now I am going to be with my team in Andorra, we are going to try to enjoy this because it has been a while since we have had a camp and we have not had contact with other cyclists. With all the measures of security we will try to enjoy this camp," Bernal said.
Bernal was also cautious about the revised calendar and noted that the coronavirus is still a health concern. Some races that were part of the revised calendar have now cancelled while others are putting into place precautions to protect the health of the athletes, staff and public.
"I don't know if there will be a before and after, I don't want to get ahead of things," he said. "I think the teams, the International Cycling Union and everyone are working very hard so that this can be done in the best way. But we don't know how long it will last, if there will be a vaccine or not. It will depend on many things, so I'm not the one who can say that."
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