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Egan Bernal racing in support of Sosa at Tour de la Provence

BESSGES FRANCE FEBRUARY 05 Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 3 a 1548km stage from Bessges to Bessges EDB2020 on February 05 2021 in Bessges France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) at the Étoile de Bèsseges (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Egan Bernal continues his start to the 2021 season in France on Thursday, leading a strong Ineos Grenadiers squad at the start of the Tour de la Provence.

The Colombian kicked off his season at last week's Étoile de Bessèges, a low-key start which saw him put in attacks on the third stage, eventually finishing 64th overall in his first race back since abandoning the 2020 Tour de France due to back pain.

At the start of stage 1 in Aubagne, Bernal said that he's unsure what he'll accomplish at his first appearance in Provence, though he'll likely focus on building form and strength for future races, rather than racing for victory on Mont Ventoux on Saturday.

"We will see," he said of his chances at the race. "It depends on how the legs are and especially how the back is after that race [Bèsseges].

"I think I'll be here just as I was in Bèsseges – just to enjoy the race and to build my performance for the big goals."

Last year, Bernal explained that his back pain was a long-standing condition stemming from one leg being longer than the other. He has undergone months of rehabilitation since dropping out of the Tour on stage 17, and in December said he was finally riding without pain.

The 24-year-old's first major goal of the season will come at the Giro d'Italia, with Provence just a step on the way to that race, his debut. As a result, he said that he'll be working for the team this week, specifically to help his compatriot and fellow Androni Giocattoli graduate Iván Sosa.

"I think for us our first card will be him," Bernal said. "He's in a really good shape so I'll try to help him.

"I'm good friends with him so I'd like him to do well in the race and I'll be ready to help him."

Bernal and Sosa will be joined in Provence by new signing Laurens De Plus, as well as Eddie Dunbar, Gianni Moscon, Ben Swift, and Cristian Rodríguez.