Half an hour or so earlier than stage 3 of the Vuelta a San Juan, Egan Bernal took his bike and slipped quietly out of the shed that was sheltering his Ineos Grenadiers group from the dazzling afternoon sunshine beating down upon the Villicum motor racing circuit.
It was neither a warm-up nor a motorcycle check. As an alternative, Bernal pedalled with languid strokes by the group paddocks, surveying the mild bustle of cyclists getting ready themselves for one more day within the saddle earlier than circling again slowly as soon as once more. Simply an abnormal day at a motorcycle race, however it’s nonetheless extraordinary that Bernal is right here to be part of it in any respect.
Tuesday marked the primary anniversary of Bernal’s horrendous coaching crash in Bogota, which left him with accidents together with fractured vertebrae, a fractured femur, a fractured patella and a punctured lung. His life was in danger within the hours instantly after the crash. For weeks afterwards, it felt uncouth even to wonder if he may ever resume his profession.
But daily, stage by stage, Bernal started to battle his means again. By late spring, he was again on a motorcycle. By early summer season, he was again coaching together with his Ineos teammates. By late summer season, he was again within the peloton on the Deutschland Tour.
Bernal begins this season hoping he may but get again to the extent that carried him to victory on the 2019 Tour de France and 2021 Giro d’Italia. But whereas his focus is mounted on the longer term, January 24 was by no means going to go by with out some contemplation of the space travelled over the previous 12 months.
“This stage itself isn’t one for me, however the day is one in all reflection, you may put it that means,” Bernal advised Cyclingnews in Villicum on Tuesday. “I’m glad to be right here on this place a 12 months after the crash, and I’m having fun with this race, it’s necessary for me.”
On Tuesday morning, Bernal had sat down for a spherical of tv interviews at his resort to mark the anniversary of his crash, and his ongoing comeback is, after all, one of many key storylines at this Vuelta a San Juan. Bernal’s buddy and someday coaching accomplice Óscar Sevilla (Medellín-EPM) was amongst many to specific wonderment this week on the journey he has undertaken over the past twelve months.
“Egan is a particular rider and champion, however what he has carried out this 12 months is value greater than any race,” Sevilla mentioned. “I believe the accident has additionally helped him to analyse his complete life a bit of bit.”
Bernal has himself acknowledged that he had typically struggled with the load of being Colombia’s first Tour winner within the aftermath of his youthful 2019 triumph, although Sevilla reckoned he had already begun to return to phrases with the magnitude of that achievement even earlier than his crash.
“Perhaps a rider who wins the Tour at an older age, like Indurain or Froome, is healthier ready to deal with the adjustments that come, however Egan was maturing anyway with the passing of the years,” Sevilla mentioned. “He was already a really clever and mature particular person, however I believe the accident has helped him to mature much more. I see him very centered and really calm emotionally, and I believe he’ll convey us a whole lot of pleasure this 12 months.”
Bernal echoed his buddy’s evaluation. The crash and its aftermath could have given him time to replicate, however the burden of being Egan Bernal was already lightening with the very passing of the years.
“After I gained the Tour, I used to be solely 22 years outdated and now I’m 26, so in any case, one thing would have modified,” Bernal mentioned. “However for anyone who wins the Tour, it’s not straightforward to remain calm and handle every part. Nonetheless, like I mentioned, 4 years have handed, 4 years with numerous adjustments, and now I’m beginning to have a bit extra expertise, so it’s simpler to handle these items.”
Bernal plans to return to the Tour this 12 months, even when, for now, he’s understandably reticent to debate his ambitions past his need to be “aggressive.” This week at San Juan, too, it’s unclear how he’ll fare towards males like Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) and Miguel Ángel López (Medellín-EPM) at Alto Colorado on Thursday, however the early phases have been encouraging.
“On these flat phases, we’re attempting to work within the finale for Elia [Viviani], to convey him to the entrance, after which get to the end within the group,” Bernal mentioned. “To date, on the flat, every part’s in its proper place. The primary phases have been good, they’ve been regular.”
After the 12 months Bernal has had, regular is excellent certainly.