Despite winning the Tour de France last year at the age of 22, Egan Bernal has said he wasn’t in optimal condition for the race. That’s something he’s out to address this year, as he puts a '100 per cent' focus on the yellow jersey.
Bernal became the youngest winner of the Tour in more than 100 years with an assured display in only his second Tour and second Grand Tour, but that wasn’t the original storyline on the script.
He had been set to lead the line at the Giro d’Italia, but broke his collarbone shortly before the race, prompting a change in his programme to put him on track for the Tour. He reached the Tour with 32 race days in the legs, which is not particularly many for a Tour contender, but was surely supplemented by a bulkier training load in the first few months of the year.
"The biggest change this year will be that I’ll be really focused on the Tour," Bernal said in a Team Ineos video in which he looked ahead to the new season.
"Last year I was preparing for the Giro and then Tour, and I think I did too many kilometres for the Tour. Maybe it’s not the ideal scenario to perform well at the Tour, and maybe that could be the biggest change for next year."
Bernal’s 2020 race programme has not yet been confirmed, but he will begin his campaign in his native Colombia in February, first at the national championships in Boyaca then at the six-stage Tour Colombia.
He’s then set to try and defend his title at Paris-Nice in March, which features some of the climbs that will make up the early stages at the Tour. In 2019, Bernal went on to ride the Volta a Catalunya before breaking his collarbone in training and returning to win the Tour de Suisse ahead of the Tour. He may cut that second stage race in March if he wants to cut down on kilometres, while it’s yet to be decided whether he’ll race Suisse of the Critérium du Dauphiné as his preparation race for the Tour.
At the Tour, Bernal will again share leadership with 2018 winner and 2019 runner-up Geraint Thomas, while Chris Froome is also fighting to be fit in time to have a say.
"This year, I’m just focused on the Tour de France. Maybe next year or in the future I’ll go for the Giro, but this year, with the Olympics, we don’t have too much time between the Giro and Tour, and I want to reach the Tour really fresh. The mountains are really punchy, so we need to arrive fresh," Bernal said.
"It’ll be something special to have the number one and try to go again for the GC. I’m really motivated, and I want to come back and try to do well for everything, because I’m the last winner, I respect the race a lot, and I know that the team has a lot of confidence in me, and I feel ready for that."
Just one week after the final stage of the Tour de France, Bernal will line up in Tokyo for the Olympic Games road race. It’s an objective, but one that’s very much secondary to the Tour.
"This year the Olympics will be an important race for everyone, and everyone wants to go there to represent their nations. I want to do well for Colombia, but my biggest goal will be the Tour de France," he said.
"I don’t want to be thinking about two races. I’m just focused 100 per cent on the Tour, and the Olympics, in any case, are one week after the Tour, so if I finish in good condition I’ll be there in the Olympics. Mentally, it’s better for me t just be focused on the Tour, and then goto the Olympics and see what happens."