Tour de France repeat is Bernal's 'one big goal'

Egan Bernal (Getty Images)
Egan Bernal (Getty Images)

Paris - Egan Bernal warned rivals on Saturday that defending his Tour de France title remains his "big 2020 goal" despite the competing attraction of the Tokyo Olympics which follows quickly in the slipstream of the world's greatest cycling race.

In 2019, Bernal became the youngest post-war champion on the Tour at 22 and this year will share Team Ineos' assault alongside 2018 champion Geraint Thomas and possibly even four-time winner Chris Froome.

"I want to arrive fresh for the Tour de France and this year with the Olympics and the Giro (either side) it doesn't leave much time," said Colombian Bernal who will keep his hopes of an eventual Giro d'Italia bid on the back-burner.

"I want to have just one big goal, it will obviously be the Tour."

Co-captain with Thomas, Bernal rode much of the 2019 Tour with a low profile, before surging into the overall lead and claiming the yellow jersey.

Bernal, who grew up in the high-altitude Andes town of Zipaquira, warned however that some factors may conspire against his Tour de France title defence.

"It's strange there is no team time-trial," said Bernal.

"This will be my third Tour and the first one without a team time-trial.

"There's lots of mountains, not really long ones and not the same altitude we had last year," added Bernal, who operates well over long climbs at high altitude, but less well over the short, sharp climbs that punctuate the 2020 route.

"It looks like a really hard Tour, but it does look like it'll be won by a climber."

The Colombian says he knows he will be targeted by rivals this season after also winning Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse in 2019.

"I will try and go again for the GC (overall win) and I'm really motivated," he said.

"The team has a lot of confidence in me and I really respect this race."

Of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic road race, which takes place at Mount Fuji om July 25, just six days after the end of the Tour, Bernal confirmed: "I'll be taking part. I want to do well for Colombia, but my biggest goal will be the Tour de France.

"I don't want to be thinking about two races - just focus 100 percent on the Tour.

"In any case, the Olympics come a week after the Tour, so if I finish the Tour in good condition, I will be good in the Olympics too."

With the Tour and Olympics back-to-back, Bernal will have to temporarily shelve his Giro dream.

He was initially Ineos' Giro captain in 2019 but a broken collarbone saw him race the Tour de France instead.

"Maybe next year, at some time in the future, maybe I'll go for the Giro," he said.

"That's a big change for me from last year. I will be really focussed on the Tour.

"Last year I was preparing the Giro and I think I maybe did too many kilometres and it maybe wasn't the ideal scenario to perform well on the Tour."

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