In the rush of a day like today, at the end of a month where Egan Bernal has looked all-but-unbeatable – with a couple of notable off-days, or at least off-moments – it is tempting to ask one thing. What if Bernal went to the Tour de France this year?
The question, it seems, occurred to Eurosport’s on-the-ground correspondent, Bernie Eisel, too. He managed to grab a few moments with Ineos’ team principal Sir Dave Brailsford, and posed it to the man behind the team’s 12 Grand Tour victories to date.
Brailsford said “I doubt it” which is about as close to a concrete yes or no answer as the mercurial mastermind ever gets. Bernal’s future almost certainly does not hold a trip to France next month. With his back the way it is, to attempt to ride two Grand Tours back-to-back would be foolhardy. Le Tour and Il Giro are even closer together than usual, as well, making the notion all the less likely – and yet the alluring romance of the proposition, Bernal at the Tour, endures.
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Brailsford also said the Ineos Tour team is “at the Dauphiné”, and so the conclusion we can take from that is that unless someone comes badly a cropper in France over the next seven days, those will be the riders getting the Tour de France berths. Accidents and changes of plans do happen, though, so maybe there’s a glimmer of possibility, for those wanting to see the Colombian back in the race he won two years ago.
¡Vamos a La Vuelta!
Far more likely is that we’ll see Bernal at La Vuelta at the end of the season. At the beginning of this year, Brailsford laid out his masterplan for 2021. Bernal to Il Giro, Thomas and Geoghegan Hart to Le Tour, Adam Yates to lead at La Vuelta. But with the intriguing possibility of Bernal going to one of either Le Tour or La Vuelta.
“Adam Yates is going to focus on the Vuelta, target the Vuelta this year. Quite often for us as a team we’ve got to July and you know, kind of all in for July and then for the second half of the season sometimes we kind of lose a bit of steam, so to have somebody to focus on the Vuelta for us is brilliant.
"We’re pretty excited about that. And of course some of the other guys will double up and go to the Vuelta as well. Egan may well, we wouldn’t rule out the fact...it depends how he comes out of the Giro, whether he goes to the Tour. Or he might go to the Vuelta, so we wouldn’t rule that out either.”
'It was special, an incredible feeling' - Bernal reflects on Giro win
Going to the Spanish race towards the end of the year would certainly give Bernal plenty of time to head home, rest his creaky back, ready to throw his full weight behind another Grand Tour tilt in the late summer.
If Bernal does line up for the start in Burgos in August, it will be intriguing to see how he fills his time between now and then. One of the most interesting trends of this season has been major GC hopefuls really cutting down on the amount of racing days ahead of a Grand Tour.
Primož Roglič hasn’t raced since Paris-Nice, while Tadej Pogačar will dip his toe in the waters of the Tour of Slovenia, hardly known as a high-calibre Tour de France tune-up event. Bernal was another rider who came in with very little recent racing in the legs – having last competed in Tirreno in mid-March – and the approach has worked wonders for him.
Bernal has also made no secret of his desire to spend time in his home country of Colombia.
- A tale of two teammates – How Bernal's Giro was built on the backs of Ganna and Martinez
- Stage 21 As it happened: Bernal claims Giro crown as Ganna rules on Stage 21
- Bernal to lead Ineos at Giro, Yates to spearhead Vuelta campaign
While the dream of a Giro-Tour double, last achieved by the superhuman Marco Pantani in 1998, may be tempting and fun to think about for those of us that love cycling for the stories it produces, it is almost certainly a fantasy. Believe it or not, this might be the last we see of Egan Bernal until 14 August.
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