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Bernal returns to Europe and eyes Tour de France

Egan Bernal flew into Madrid on Monday on a special flight for Colombian athletes and said his sights are set on defending his Tour de France title.

“I will be meeting with my team in Andorra and we will prepare for the races,” said Bernal at Madrid airport. 

The flight carried 110 sportsmen and women including road cyclists Nairo Quintana of Arkea-Samsic, Rigoberto Uran of EF Pro Cycling and Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana, as well as double Olympic BMX champion Mariana Pajon, fencers, footballers and judokas. 

None of them will have to be quarantined in Spain because they passed coronavirus tests before embarking in Colombia, where cities such as Bogota and Medellin are in strict lockdown because of the pandemic.

Bernal said he plans to travel to neighbouring Andorra, where he will meet his Ineos team to prepare for the season and the Tour, which will run from 29 August to 20 September. 

“The best thing is to go step by step,” said Bernal, for whom his priority is “to go to the training camp, to see at what level I am at”. 

“It’s been a long time since I’ve competed, but no one is competing, it’s a different season,” added the 23-year-old. 

He said he wanted to “enjoy the races that before the Tour de France, and there we will see in what I am, in what level are my colleagues and from there everything will start.”

Quintana, who was hit by a car while training near his home in Boyaca in central Colombia in early July, said that, after two weeks rest, he was ready for training.

“We will take covid tests and start training sessions”, said Quintana, who said he was not afraid of possible contagion during races. 

“We are supposed to have bio-security protocols to ensure that every time we get to a competition none of us are infected,” he said. 

The pandemic has forced a change in the cycling calendar. The rescheduled Tour de France will start an over-crowded autumn calendar with the World Championships in Switzerland starting on the day the Tour ends and running September 20-27, the Giro d’Italia is on from October 3-25 and the Vuelta a Espana from October 20 to November 8. 

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