In late December, the Ineos rider appeared to indicate that he would once again target the Tour de France this season, but in an interview in Friday’s edition of La Gazzetta, the Ineos Grenadiers leader said that he still had the Giro in mind.
"I’d really like it. I’d like to be there, yes," Bernal said. "Recently, in an interview I did in Colombia, it came across that I was preparing for the Tour. But the Giro comes first in the calendar, and in my head, option number one is to be at the start. It would be special.
"I don’t know if I would have the condition to go there as team leader, or whether it would be to help teammates, to help a captain who was going better than me. But that doesn’t mean that it’s been decided; we have to define things with the team and see how my recovery goes."
The route of the 2021 Giro has yet to be revealed, but Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) are among the GC contenders to have confirmed their participation.
Bernal was due to lead Ineos at the 2019 Giro, but he pulled out of the race after crashing in training shortly beforehand. He recovered in time to win that year’s Tour de France ahead of teammate Geraint Thomas.
The 23-year-old’s defence of his title was thwarted by a back injury that forced him to abandon the rescheduled 2021 Tour after two weeks. He was subsequently diagnosed with the spinal condition scoliosis, bringing an end to his season.
"I was in Germany, England, France and Spain. I did tests and got various opinions. At a certain point, I couldn’t stand up for more than five minutes without pain. It was complicated but it’s resolving itself and I’m getting back to feeling like a cyclist again," said Bernal, who explained that the root of the problem was the fact that one leg is longer than the other.
"For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived with back pain, but it was never as strong as during the Tour. The left leg is longer, by almost 2cm – 1.7cm. For that reason, there was scoliosis of the spine. One of the discs was pressing against a nerve that ‘controls’ the gluteus and the leg. The idea is to eliminate [the pain] completely, but it will be a long process."
Although Chris Froome has left Ineos for Israel Start-Up Nation, Bernal will still have three previous Grand Tour winners alongside him in the roster in the form of 2020 Giro winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, 2019 winner Richard Carapaz and 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas. The British squad have also signed Richie Porte, Adam Yates and Critérium du Dauphiné winner Daniel Martínez.
While Bernal has yet to confirm his race programme for 2021, it is expected that his season will start either at the Colombian championships or the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
"I feel good, I’m super motivated," he said. "I haven’t raced for almost four months. I’m counting on starting again in early February, even if I won’t be at my best."
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