As the year draws to an end, cyclists are left to reflect on a great 12 months for the sport.
The 2021 Tour de France was the usual mix of entertainment, thrills and spills, with Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar taking home the top prize. It wasn’t just an event defined by the racing, though; who can forget the mindless spectator that caused the headline-grabbing crash? Reuters claimed she turned herself in, but for a moment, her actions took cycling from the sports pages and onto the headlines of major new outlets everywhere. It was an unsavory incident, but the global interest underlined how important the Tour de France is not just to cyclists but even those with little more than a passing interest in the sport.
24-year-old Egan Bernal has more than a passing interest; as one of the world’s top cyclists, he targets the 2022 event after a successful 2021. He won the Tour de France in 2019, becoming the first-ever Colombian to do so, but he’s since suffered setbacks. A back injury ruled him out in 2020, and this past year he made a comeback. He took the victory in the Giro d’Italia in 2021 and has now fixed his sights on cycling’s biggest event in the summer.
“It is clear that we are going to focus all our preparation and efforts thinking about competing in the Tour de France this year,” Bernal said. “It is time to return to return to the path that we found in 2019 and from which we have separated a little.”
The past two years have seen him fighting back to fitness, but he is cautious about his chances, despite eyeing the top prize once more.
“I think I have fully recovered, but nevertheless, we have been monitoring the evolution through physiotherapy sessions, strengthening with gym attendance, hoping to start the cycling year and continue without anything that could affect performance on the bike.”
Bernal is the fourth favorite for the event in the latest Bwin cycling rankings, behind the 2021 winner Pogacar. Others likely to be in line for the title include Primoz Roglic, who was forced out of the most recent race after suffering multiple bruises when he crashed in stage three. Jonas Vingegaard makes up the top four; he came second this year and became only the second Danish rider to achieve a podium finish in the Tour de France, the first since 1996. Others will have a good chance of success, but those four riders will be the expected front-runners.
The 2022 event will be the 109th edition of the famous race, and it starts on July 1 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The race will wind through Europe, taking in Lille, Lausanne, Saint Etienne and Lourdes, before concluding in Paris on July 24. Overall, riders who complete the race will cover 2068m across 21 grueling stages, with three rest days in-between. That’s a slightly shorter course than last year, where riders covered 2122m around France, from Brest to Paris via Nimes, Pau and Vierzon.
Hopefully, Egan Bernal can keep himself fit and perhaps grab himself a second win in four years.