The Colombian star, winner of the 2019 Tour de France, will be making his debut in the Italian Grand Tour this weekend, entering the race as the bookies’s favourite despite flying under the radar so far this season.
Bernal has been dealing with back pain, believed to be caused by a difference in the length of his legs, which eventually forced him to withdraw from the 2020 Tour de France after he fell out of contention in the final week.
The 24-year-old will be leading his Ineos Grenadiers squad at the 2021, but is uncertain how his back problems will affect his performance.
In an interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, Bernal said: “Everything will depend on how my back responds. If everything will be okay then I’ll focus on the overall classification and the fight for the maglia rosa in Milan. We’ll see day by day because I haven’t raced for two months. It’s useless to make false promises.”
Bernal, the winner of seven stage races in his three-year WorldTour career, has been relatively quiet so far this season.
After starting his season in Étoile de Bessèges where he didn’t perform, Bernal finished third overall in the Tour de la Provence, was third in Strade Bianche and then finished fourth in Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March, his last race before the Giro.
Bernal then returned to Colombia to train at altitude and hopes to start in Turin at full fitness.
Ineos Grenadiers are reigning champions in the Giro after Tao Geoghegan Hart took an unexpected victory in the unpredictable 2020 edition.
But as Geoghegan Hart focuses on the Tour de France, Bernal will lead Ineos in Italy as the team want to shake up his approach to racing.
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said earlier this year that Bernal needs to “find the joy of racing again,” suggesting he may have become too focused on results.