Having initially planned to start his season at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Egan Bernal has joined fellow Ineos Grenadiers team leader Geraint Thomas in making his return to race action this week at the Étoile de Bessèges. The Colombian has no stated goals for the race apart from wanting to assess the extent of his recovery from the back injury that forced him to abandon the 2020 Tour de France during its final week.
“I’m feeling really happy to be back in the game and really excited to be starting my season here. I’ll just try to enjoy the race,” Bernal said prior to the opening stage in Bellegarde.
He’s been sidelined for almost five months by a displaced disc that is irritating a nerve and is resulting in pain in the gluteus muscle and in one of his legs. The Colombian has been doing considerable strength conditioning work in the gym in an attempt to resolve the issue.
“I’m working really hard on this, but I think it will be a long process to recover totally from my back problem and be 100 per cent again,” Bernal explained. “But I’m working hard on it and I hope to be OK in the big races to come.”
The Colombian also explained that he hopes that he’ll get some answers about the progress of his rehabilitation at Bessèges.
“It’s difficult to say where I am right now because some days I feel better than other days, but I feel like I’m ready to race and we’ll see during this race how I’m coping on the bike,” he said.
Bernal lost some time at the finish of stage 1 when he was held up behind a crash in the finale, but his Ineos Grenadiers team confirmed that was not among the fallers. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) claimed victory in the uphill finish at Bellegarde ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic).
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