After being hampered with back problems at the Tour de France and Critérium du Dauphiné, Egan Bernal has revealed the root cause of the injury – a leg problem which has had a knock-on effect. He faces several months of special gym work to treat it before a return to racing.
The Colombian, who led Ineos Grenadiers at both races, pulled out of the Dauphiné after three stages as a precautionary measure ahead of the Tour. He was in contention for a podium spot – if not outright victory – heading into the Alps at Le Grand Boucle, but his challenge fell apart on the Grand Colombier, with Bernal saying "I'm screwed up on all sides" afterwards.
He noted that the pain had spread to his knee but battled on for another stage, losing another 11 minutes. At that point, while lying 19 minutes down on GC, Bernal abandoned the Tour, later calling time on his 2020 season to focus on recovery from his injuries.
In an interview with ESPN Colombia, Bernal said that the root cause of the injury is down to the fact that one of his legs is longer than the other. He underwent a detailed bike position check in Germany recently and is now working in the gym to strengthen his core and back muscles.
"The problem is that one leg is longer than the other," he explained. "I'm already thinking about next season. It's a pretty long recovery process because basically it has caused me to have scoliosis in my spine.
"A disc in the spine managed to puncture the nerve that runs to the gluteus and goes down to the leg."
The 25-year-old added that the problem can't be fixed with surgery. Instead, recovery will necessitate a process of rehabilitation and a strengthening his back ahead of the 2021 season.
"It is exactly the place where it hurts, but it is something that cannot be sorted with surgery – it's not recommended. Instead, it's a problem that can only be fixed with long-term rehabilitation and trying to relieve the inflammation. We need to get the disc that moves slightly back into place."
Bernal said that the process will be a long one, with several months needed to get him back to full fitness. It's unclear when exactly he would be able to return to racing next season.
"It's quite a long process and it will take not one of two months but a long time. It's going to take a reasonable amount of time for me to be free of pain again.
"I'm in Monaco doing my rehabilitation, trying my best and staying motivated for next year – setting new goals and objectives. I have a whole career ahead, so I can't keep thinking about the Tour de France that I lost, like last year I couldn't keep thinking about the Tour I won.
"You always have to think ahead, and the way is to do things in the best way right now."
At Work!! 👊🏽👊🏽 pic.twitter.com/REVFfjRd10October 26, 2020