Bernal: Targeting the Giro d'Italia is the best decision for me

LA CALMETTE FRANCE FEBRUARY 04 Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 2 a 154km stage from SaintGenis to La Calmette EDB2020 on February 04 2021 in La Calmette France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers during stage 2 of Etoile de Bessges-Tour du Gard 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Egan Bernal says he’s relishing the prospect of making his racing debut at the Giro d’Italia this season rather than focusing on the Tour de France.

“I think it’s the best decision,” Bernal told Cyclingnews just prior to the start of the second stage of the Étoile de Bessèges in Saint-Génies-de-Malgoirès.

Speaking less than 24 hours after Ineos boss Dave Brailsford revealed that Bernal is set to lead Ineos Grenadiers at the Giro, while Geraint Thomas, Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart will head the British team’s attack at the Tour, the Colombian added: “I’ve wanted to race the Giro since I turned professional in 2016. Even in the year when I won the Tour de France in 2019, I was supposed to be racing the Giro but events beforehand meant that it didn’t work out.

“It seems whenever I think about racing the Giro something happens,” Bernal continued with a smile. “But I’m not going to let that play on my mind. I want to enjoy the race, it’s a race that I really love and I’m very happy to be focusing on it, very motivated by the prospect of racing it at last.”

Asked about Brailsford’s comment that his Colombian leader needs “to find the joy of racing," Bernal acknowledged, “I think that’s probably right to a certain extent.

“Last year was a very difficult one for me due to the problems I had with my back. But we’ve analysed the situation and I think we all agree that it was best for me to focus on races that I really enjoy, that I will get real pleasure from participating in. The Giro is certainly one that I’ve long looked forward to riding and psychologically that’s given me a boost.”

The Colombian also admitted that he’s pleased with how things went for him on the opening stage at Bessèges, his first race since he abandoned the 2020 Tour de France halfway through its final week last September.

“It went well yesterday, it was a good start to the season, with a stage that was very laid back, totally flat. It went very well for me, especially as Kwiato [Michal Kwiatkowski] was fifth,” he said.

He also revealed that he is continuing with the rehabilitation work on his back prior to Bessèges stages. “I keep working on it every morning, even here at the race, when we’ve got quite a bit of time before the stages start, doing the exercises to keep improving it,” he said.

“It’s not 100 per cent healed yet and the exercises do make the racing a little harder, but I feel that I’m on the right track.”

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).