Egan Bernal has voiced his desire to join an elite club of riders who have claimed title honours at all three Grand Tours.
Bernal won the Tour de France as a 22-year-old in 2020 and triumphed at the Giro d’Italia in 2021 before a horror training crash made cycling a secondary consideration in 2022.
The Colombian climber, speaking in Japan ahead of Sunday’s Saitama Criterium, appears as lithe as ever after his first full season back in the saddle, and were it not for his humbling candour you wouldn’t be able to tell the grievous horror he’s endured and overcome.
“How I survived this accident is not normal, so above all, I’m happy to be alive,” Bernal said.
“In cycling, we always think about being number one and winning the Tour de France and blah, blah, blah, and I did, too, before the accident. But when you realise that you are, like, you know, a normal person and you can die, and you experience being in bed unable to move, and all these things … I was lucky.”
Bernal was on his time trial bike during a training ride when he crashed into a stationary bus at speed in January last year, suffering chest trauma, a punctured lung, and several fractures – a broken right femur, patella, ribs, and facial fractures – which required multiple surgeries.
“When I first woke up, I wasn’t worried whether or not I would be a cyclist again,” he recalled. “I just wanted to move and be able to walk and have a normal life.”
“I think that’s why I don’t have bad moments mentally because I know how lucky I was just to be alive.”
Bernal miraculously competed in three races toward the end of last season, before taking on a full schedule this year, which included the Tour and the Vuelta a España.
“When I had just finished the season, I was tired mentally and physically,” he said.
“I had started in the Volta a Catalunya and then I was doing high-level races with only short recovery periods in between. But I think it was a good decision to do this kind of workload, in terms of next season. It was hard but hopefully, it’s going to pay off next year.”
Bernal finished 36th at the Tour this year and 55th at the Vuelta but took the most confidence in his performance at the latter.
“After the Vuelta, I feel good with what I did – and had more confidence about next year,” he said when asked if he was happy with his season.
“I was of course really tired, but I…