Egen Bernal has been named as team leader of the ‘Selección Colombia’, the Colombian national team, for the Tour Colombia 2.1 stage race that returns between February 6-11 after a three-year hiatus.
The six-day stage race includes a stage to Bernal’s hometown of Zipaquirá and a summit finish atop the Alto del Vino ahead of the final stage in Bogotá and was not held since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lack of funding.
Bernal won the first edition in 2018, when the race was known as Colombia Paz y Oro and has been training hard at home in recent weeks.
“Racing at home would fill me with confidence, ideally, and then I’d head to Europe to do the best in the races I’m scheduled to do,” Bernal said in late November, still unsure if he will ride the 2024 Tour de France.
Bernal celebrated his 27th birthday on Saturday with hundreds of cyclists singing happy birthday to him before a special group ride.
Also named in the Colombian national are Bernal’s Ineos Grenadiers teammate Brandon Rivera, plus Jonathan Restrepo and German Darío Gómez (both ride for Polti Kometa), Jesús David Peña (Jayco-AlUla) and Juan Diego Alba of the Movistar Best PC Continental team.
The riders will compete in the Colombian national championships on February 2 and come together in Paipa for the start of Tour Colombia 2.1.
The opening stage features roads from the 1995 World Championships, with stage finishing in Duitama. The race visits Boyacá for stage 3, with nine laps of a 12.5km circuit around Tunja. Stage 4 to the department of Cundinamarca for a stage finish in Zipaquirá, where Bernal was so memorably welcomed home as Tour de France champion in 2019.
The organisation has described the penultimate day as the etapa reina, the queen stage, with a summit finish on the 2,800m-high Alto del Vino. The final stage will finish in the centre of the capital Bogotá.
Mark Cavendish will lead the Astana Qazaqstan team in the race after an altitude training camp, with Rigoberto Uran riding for his EF Education-EasyPost team along with Richard Carapaz, Esteban Chaves,Andrey Amador, Jefferson Cepeda and Italy’s Andrea Piccolo.
Nairo Quintana is expected to lead the Movistar team, alongside Ivan Sosa and Fernando Gaviria.