PARIS • Colombian cyclist Egan Bernal will bid for a second Tour de France title next year, the Ineos rider confirmed to the press in his homeland on Tuesday.
He won the Tour de France in style aged just 22 in 2019, but the climbing sensation withdrew injured halfway through the 2020 edition and skipped the event this year to race and win the Giro d'Italia.
In his absence, the even younger Slovenian Tadej Pogacar of Team UAE Emirates won back-to-back Tour de France titles and is now considered the man to beat.
But the prospect of seeing Bernal trying to wrest the title from the 23-year-old Pogacar's iron grip is a mouth-watering proposition.
When cycling magazine Mundo Ciclistico asked Bernal, who turns 25 in January, if he would race the Tour de France next year he confirmed he would.
"The answer is yes," he said.
"That is clear. We will focus all our training, preparations and force on getting ready for the Tour de France this year. It's time to go back, to return to the paths we found in 2019, and which I moved away from slightly."
As the Giro d'Italia finishes less than three weeks before the Tour begins next year, the news suggests he would likely miss the Italian race, of which he speaks so highly.
"Winning the Giro was of enormous personal and sporting significance for me personally, my team and for Colombians," said the man who raced as a neo-pro (under-25 and in first year) in Italy.
"It took huge physical and mental strength to win the Giro, and I'll never forget it."
"I think I'm over the back injury but the results on the bike will show if that's right," he added of the niggling back complaint that came to the fore during his Tour de France defence.
The 2022 Tour starts with three stages in Copenhagen and, in the words of its designer Thierry Gouvenou, will suit only "complete riders" who can thrive on any surface and in any condition.
Bernal, who grew up in the Andes, can look forward to five finishes at high altitude, one of them at 2,400 metres. But given his slight frame, he may struggle more on the windy 17km bridge over the sea in Denmark, on the 19km of cobblestones in France's northern mining region, or on the 40km of time trialling.