In hindsight, Egan Bernal was transferring slightly gingerly when he walked over to talk to a gaggle of reporters atop Alto Colorado after stage 5 of the Vuelta a San Juan, nevertheless it was simple to miss it on the time. It may simply have been the consequences of racing exhausting at 2,600 metres above sea degree.
Bernal actually didn’t betray any concern throughout his upbeat evaluation of his efficiency on the hardest stage of the race, a big waypoint on the lengthy journey again from the crash that just about ended his profession a yr in the past. Fourth place on the stage appeared to augur properly for the yr forward.
“I feel we could be completely happy and calm concerning the course of,” Bernal smiled beneath his Ineos Grenadiers crew’s cover past the end line.
A day later, the temper music modified abruptly when Bernal deserted simply kilometres into the penultimate stage. Ineos Grenadiers crew moved rapidly, nonetheless, to make clear that the left knee ache that pressured him out was not a lingering residue of final yr’s horrific crash, however a extra minor grievance, attributable to a fall on the opening day of the Vuelta a San Juan.
“Egan fell in the identical crash as Quinn Simmons on the primary stage,” director sportif Xabier Zandio stated forward of Sunday’s last stage.
“He fell, nevertheless it wasn’t so unhealthy on the time, it was a reasonably gentle blow to his left knee. For the primary day, he had a little bit of discomfort, nevertheless it didn’t have an effect on him on the bike. On the mountain stage, he felt a little bit of discomfort, and he felt it once more on yesterday’s stage, so he pulled out as a precaution.”
Whereas there will likely be appreciable aid that Bernal’s ache was not in the identical knee he fractured in January of final yr, any harm of this type brings with it a level of preoccupation.
“It’s by no means good to have ache in your knee, in order that’s at all times a small fear, nevertheless it’s not severe,” Zandio stated. “He’s been assessed and it’s not very worrying, so he ought to have the ability to get better in a number of days.”
Bernal was scheduled to race the Colombian Championships in Bucaramanga subsequent weekend, however it’s not but clear whether or not he will likely be handed match to race.
Zandio pressured that his racing schedule on European roads wouldn’t be affected by this setback.
“For him, it’s essential to race at house however we’ll see in the course of the week whether or not he races or not. We’re optimistic,” Zandio stated.
“It’s nonetheless attainable that he rides the Nationwide Championships, however that’s not what we’re fascinated about, we’re pondering extra concerning the future. We’re fascinated about the races in Europe and the season typically. And this isn’t one thing that’s going to vary his plans going ahead for the remainder of the season.”
A check of health within the mountains
Though Bernal returned to competitors on the Deutschland Tour final August, his presence on the Vuelta a San Juan marked the start of a brand new part as he builds in the direction of a deliberate tilt on the Tour de France in July. Talking forward of the race, he had struck an upbeat word, suggesting his situation this January was consistent with earlier years.
Bernal put that speculation to the check on the 2 hardest climbs of the race. On stage 4 to Barreal, exactly a yr and a day after the crash that modified all the things, he went on the offensive on the Gruta Virgen de Andacollo, soloing clear from the peloton and bridging throughout to the break.
Patchy tv protection meant the acceleration was not captured stay in wonderful technicolour however observers from throughout the race convoy had been struck by Bernal’s speedy tempo on the climb. Though Bernal and the escapees had been reeled in on the lengthy descent that adopted, the intelligence gathered was encouraging.
“We spoke about it beforehand, as a result of we noticed the terrain was tough within the first 90km, so it was a day to strive,” Zandio stated.
“Ultimately, Egan went away alone, but when some GC rivals had gone with him, it may have been a superb alternative. In any case, it was a superb check earlier than the remaining day.”
A extra sturdy examination got here on Alto Colorado and once more, the initials indicators had been heartening. Though Bernal was unable to observe Miguel Ángel López’s race-winning assault with 7.5km to go, he was among the many better of the chasers, reaching the end fourth at 40 seconds – and nearly half a minute away from world champion Remco Evenepoel.
“The extent of the climbers right here was very excessive so to be up there with them was an excellent signal for the longer term,” Zandio stated. “López was superior to everybody else, however I feel this race was a a lot larger goal for him in his season too.”
Per week of appreciable promise ended with a setback, as Bernal withdrew simply 18km into the penultimate stage. Even so, Zandio, insisted the Vuelta a San Juan had introduced extra excellent news than unhealthy for Bernal.
“He’s nonetheless very optimistic. He’s motivated and targeted and eager to return to competitors,” Zandio stated.
“He was very targeted on the mountain stage to see the place he was relative to his rivals, and he was very pleased with that. I feel that’s been the essential factor from this week, to cross that essential check. That was optimistic, so he’s completely happy.”
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