The Colombian abandoned last year's Tour de France with a back injury and was later diagnosed with the spinal condition scoliosis, which brought an end to his season.
Bernal resumed competition in France last month, where he impressed on Mont Ventoux in the Tour de la Provence, placing third overall. He begins the next chapter of his season at the Trofeo Laigueglia on Wednesday, the first in a series of Italian races on his programme as he builds towards his Giro d’Italia debut in May.
"My objective for the Giro this year is to get back to being the Egan who likes to attack, the Egan who isn’t afraid of getting dropped," Bernal told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"On the Ventoux, my back didn’t cause me too much pain. Unfortunately, I know I’ll have to live with the pain, at least for this year. I just want to enjoy this race, which I’ve wanted to do for several years. And what happens, happens."
After racing the Trofeo Laigueglia, Bernal will line up at Strade Bianche, an event that will serve as preparation for stage 11 of the Giro, which brings the gruppo over the dirt roads of Tuscany en route to Montalcino.
Bernal will remain in Italy to ride Tirreno-Adriatico and he will later complete his Giro build-up by competing at the Tour of the Alps in April. Last month, Bernal travelled to Italy to reconnoitre the finale of stage 19 of the Giro at Alpe di Mera.
"I’m preparing myself 100 per cent to arrive well at the Giro, but obviously the others are preparing themselves to win too. I won’t be racing alone," said Bernal, who was due to make his Giro debut in 2019 only to break his collarbone in training shortly beforehand. He recovered to win that year’s Tour de France.
"I’m almost afraid to imagine [riding the Giro]. Every time I’ve been supposed to ride it, something has always happened to prevent me from doing it. But this time it won’t be like that. I can’t wait. For me, it’s always beautiful to race here because I have so many friends, because I know the roads and because I have so many good memories."
Bernal will lead Ineos at the Giro, where he will be joined in the line-up by Ivan Sosa, Daniel Martínez, Filippo Ganna and Pavel Sivakov. 2020 Giro winner Tao Geoghegan Hart will join 2019 Giro winner Richard Carapaz on a Tour de France team that is also set to include Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte.
"In this moment, the only objective I have in mind is the Giro," said Bernal. "Then, if I’m feeling good, I’ll think about the Olympics."
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