Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has indicated that his injury troubles won't stop him from targeting a second Tour de France title, as he confirmed the race would once again be his principal objective of the 2021 season.
After winning the Tour in 2019 at the age of 22, the Colombian was forced to abandon his title defence this year with back pain, and was subsequently diagnosed with the spinal condition scoliosis.
Bernal himself initially suggested his recovery would take several months and, despite saying last week that he was riding pain-free, he refused to discuss his ambitions for 2021.
However, on Tuesday, at a ceremony that saw him crowned sportsman of the year in his home region of Zipaquirá, he did set out the skeleton of his race programme.
"I'll have to train very hard. The truth is I'm preparing for the Tour de France, which is the most important race in the world," he told Noticias Caracol.
"My first race should come at the Colombian national championships, which I think will still take place in February."
Bernal has previously indicated his desire to target the Giro d'Italia at some point. While the route for the Tour, which is slightly less favourable to the climbers than in recent years, has been unveiled, the route for the Giro has yet to be unveiled.
It may well be the case that the Giro, which takes place in May, comes too early for Bernal to consider it, given his current condition. He issued another reminder that the road to full fitness will be long.
"Little by little the inflammation is going away. I've been pedalling without pain for some days now, but the recovery will take a bit of time."
While Bernal will start out at his national championships, the international Tour Colombia race will not take place in February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a number of small stage races in Europe in February, including the Volta a Valencia, Volta ao Algarve, and Ruta del Sol, while the UCI WorldTour series kicks off at the UAE Tour later in the month. Major outings for prospective Grand Tour contenders come in March in the form of Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Bernal was included in Colombia's plans for the Olympic road race before the Tokyo Games were pushed back to 2021. Now there is just a week between the end of the Tour and the Tokyo road race, with added uncertainty surrounding possible quarantine periods for athletes arriving in Japan.
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