Egan Bernal has acknowledged that he is unlikely to ride next month’s Vuelta a España, but he has confirmed his intention to return to competition before the end of this season.
Bernal sustained life-threatening injuries in a training crash in Colombia in January, but his rehabilitation has progressed ahead of schedule, prompting speculation that he might take his place in the peloton again as soon as August.
The 2019 Tour de France winner is currently on a team training camp in Andorra, but Ineos Grenadiers have insisted that no date has yet been set for his return to racing.
Speaking on Vincenzo Nibali’s Twitch channel Squalo TV (opens in new tab), Bernal all but ruled himself out of lining out at the Vuelta, but he confirmed that his recovery was exceeding expectations. He added that he hoped to pin on a number in time to participate in the final races of Nibali’s career in Italy. Nibali is set to bring the curtain down on his road career at Il Lombardia on October 8.
“For the Vuelta, it’s almost certainly no, because it’s hard,” Bernal said. “I spoke with the team and my coach, and at the start, let’s say a month or two months ago, it was impossible to think about racing this year. But I hope to do the races in Italy, the final races of the season.”
Bernal made his Vuelta debut in last year’s race, where he was aiming to complete a full set of Grand Tour victories. He would reach Madrid in 6th overall, though he animated the race with a long-range offensive in the company of eventual winner Primoz Roglic on stage 17 to Lagos de Covadonga.
That Vuelta marked Bernal's last race before his horrific training crash. The 25-year-old spent almost two weeks in an intensive care unit following the incident near Bogota on January 24, in which he suffered fractured vertebrae, a fractured right femur, a fractured right patella, chest trauma, a punctured lung and several fractured ribs.
Barely two months later, Bernal resumed training on the road, and he travelled to Europe to continue his rehabilitation in May. La Gazzetta dello Sport reported last week that Bernal was eyeing a return to competition at the Vuelta a Burgos (August 2-6), but while his presence at an altitude camp in Andorra marked a new phase in his rehabilitation, Ineos Grenadiers have remained cautious about outlining plans for his eventual return to racing.
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.