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Speculation’s been building since Bernal returned to Europe last month and joined his teammates on a high-altitude training camp in Andorra. Bernal posted a message on social media expressing his readiness to race, and returned to his home in Monaco.
“After three weeks of an altitude camp and some hard training, I am going home to continue the preparation,” Bernal said on social media. “The next objective [is] to return to competition. Hard work, patience, and belief are the keys to move forward.”
What’s confirmed is that Bernal will not race the five-day Vuelta a Burgos, starting Tuesday in northern Spain.
The Vuelta remains uncertain. It’s more likely Bernal will see some action in late-season races in Italy as the team will not want to throw Bernal right back into the demands of a grand tour without at least some racing.
Bernal, 25, has made tremendous strides since a horrific high-speed collision with a bus in Colombia in late January nearly killed him. The impact left him with several broken bones and other significant injuries, and required several surgeries and months of rehab.
There’s no denying that Bernal’s recovery continues unabated. Last month, the 2021 Giro d’Italia revealed details of a five-hour ride that included 3,000 vertical meters of climbing in Andorra. He also did interval training on Col de Rabassa, with some impressive numbers.
The fact that Bernal is training again with his Ineos Grenadiers teammates is a very positive sign that the 2019 Tour de France winner could indeed return to racing before the season is out.
Speaking to VeloNews last month at the Tour, Ineos boss Rod Ellingworth was cautiously optimistic about Bernal’s prospects, but did not want him to go too fast in a return to racing.
“Obviously without Egan this year it’s made a big difference to us as a team. That’s the biggest blow that we’ve taken all year but I think that Egan is capable and if I’m really honest I think that Egan has only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of,” Ellingworth said. “I think he can come back and he’s doing really well at the moment. Let’s hope he can do something really special.”
That hasn’t stopped speculation that Bernal could in fact race the Vuelta. Vuelta race director Javier Guillén told Radio Marca last week that he hoped Bernal could be at the Vuelta when it starts August 19 in the Netherlands.
The appearance of Bernal’s name on the long list for the Vuelta only adds fuel to the speculation fire. The fact that he’s not racing in Burgos this week, however, suggests that a Vuelta start is a long shot.
Ineos Grenadiers has made some surprises with Bernal before, including in 2018 when he was slated to make his grand tour debut at the Giro, only to see the team take him to the Tour.
Others confirmed for Ineos Grenadiers at the Vuelta include Richard Carapaz, Michel Kwiatkowski, and Pavel Sivakov.