If 2020 was a frustrating year for Egan Bernal, 2021 is showing signs of being a huge improvement, with the Latin American cycling star eager to make the most of his Grand Tour opportunities. He didn’t compete at either the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España in 2020, while the Tour de France was ultimately one to forget.
Now the 24-year-old cycling phenomenon appears keen to make up for lost time, literally as well as figuratively. Since February and after finishing third overall at the Tour de la Provence, Bernal has looked in great shape. Warming up for the Giro in March, he finished second at the Trofeo Laigueglia, third at the Strade Bianche, then fourth at the Tirreno-Adriatico.
Given the impressive level of performance shown at the 2021 Giro d’Italia, expectations remain high that Bernal could be set for a spectacular year. Already handed 6/1 cycling betting odds to win the Tour de France, the 24-year-old Colombian already knows what it takes to win that event, having triumphed at ‘La Grande Boucle’ in 2019.
Egan Bernal becomes the first Colombian winner of the Tour de France winning the 2019 edition. Bernal has done what Colombians all believed is possible since the days of Herrera, a nation with strong links to the Tour. pic.twitter.com/OjcseWtuIZ
— The World of Cycling (@twocGAME) December 29, 2019
Despite the fact he didn’t win a single stage of the 2019 Tour de France, the staying power of Bernal kept him in the frame throughout. By stage 19, with the route shortened following hailstorms and mudslides, Bernal had overtaken Julian Alaphilippe in the General Classification. That position would be held until crossing the finishing line in Paris.
Unfortunately for Bernal, he was unable to repeat the same success at the 2020 Tour de France, despite being in a strong position to challenge for leadership after the early stages. However, after losing precious time on stage 15, while also suffering from knee and back problems, Bernal opted to withdraw from the Tour after stage 16.
Quitting such a prestigious event isn’t usually part of the Bernal mentality, due to his driven mentality and fearsome competitiveness. Nevertheless, while the mind was willing, it was physically impossible for Bernal to finish the 2020 Tour de France the way he would have hoped, challenging to the end.
???? Giro d’Italia 2021 – Stage 1⃣6⃣
???? Sacile – Cortina d’Ampezzo
— Giro d’Italia (@giroditalia) May 24, 2021
Tipped as one of the favorites last year, Primoz Roglic was eventually beaten by his fellow countryman Tadej Pogacar, as the Slovenian duo dominated throughout. They will be strongly backed to repeat their success heading into the 2021 Tour de France, with both riders already having won key events this year.
Pogacar topped the overall classification at UAE Tour in February, then won the Tirreno-Adriatico in March, followed by one day victory at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race in April. Roglic won the Paris-Nice stage race in March, then triumphed at the Tour of the Basque Country in April, before finishing second at La Fleche Wallonne in Belgium.
Clearly, beating those Slovenian rivals will be a huge challenge for Bernal, albeit one that he seems ready for. Two years ago everything pointed towards him beginning an era of dominance until Roglic and Pogacar burst to the fore. They will undoubtedly be the two riders to beat at the Tour de France this year, although Bernal at his best will be ready to do just that.