Riding is Life


Egan Bernal leads Mikel Landa on a climb at the 2024 Volta Catalunya.

Egan Bernal has his first WorldTour podium since his crash

A little over two years after a career-altering crash, the two-time Grand Tour winner continues to make strides.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 25.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Two years and two months ago, Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) crashed into the back of a bus on a training ride, sustaining injuries – over a dozen broken bones – that would alter the course of his career. In an instant, the 2019 Tour de France winner and then-reigning Giro d’Italia champion went from one of cycling’s most promising young stars to a rider whose future as a professional at all was in doubt.

Since that day, he has worked his way back to health and back into the kind of form necessary to contend at the sport’s highest level. It has been a long and arduous road, but Bernal has made slow but steady progress. On Sunday, he climbed onto the podium of a WorldTour stage race for the first time since that horrible crash.

“I’m just happy. Really proud of the team, and for myself,” Bernal said after securing third overall at the Volta a Catalunya. “It was a really hard week, but in the end we did well.”

Bernal had already shown signs of his progress earlier this season with strong showings in his first several races, having landed inside the top 10 of the Tour Colombia, O Gran Camiño, and Paris-Nice, but a podium in a WorldTour event is his biggest showing yet since his crash and his first WT podium since that 2021 Giro win. That it came in the relentlessly difficult Volta a Catalunya – a race with almost 20,000 meters of climbing and three mountaintop finishes – is cause for optimism. And, he overcame another crash on the very first stage of the race, and went on to thrive even in some chilly mountaintop conditions, en route to his podium.

Egan Bernal at the Volta a Catalunya.
Egan Bernal’s Volta a Catalunya started with a crash, but it ended with a podium.

“It was the goal of the team [to get on the podium] but also, being realistic, from where I came, it would be difficult to, but that is what I had on my mind.” Bernal said.

“It’s incredible to be on the podium in a WorldTour race again.”

To be sure, Bernal is not back at the same level that saw him storm to Colombia’s first ever Tour de France victory back in 2019. The rider who succeeded him as Tour champ and as cycling’s next next big thing in 2020, Tadej Pogačar, was head and shoulders above the competition in the one-week race in northeastern Spain.

Nonetheless, Bernal was the second-best finisher on the first-category climb to Queralt on stage 6, a climbing performance that saw him surge up the overall standings and leapfrog Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) into the top three behind Mikel Landa (Soudal-Quick Step). Bernal held on to that position through another up-and-down stage on the final day.

In any case, Bernal and the Ineos Grenadiers are both optimistic that this is not the ceiling for a post-2022 Bernal, but instead merely another step on his road back. Seriously contending at the Tour de France still feels like a little ways off, but it starts to feel a little bit more possible with every bit of progress.

“He is happy with where he is at, and he’s achieving his objective going into the race for a spot on the podium,” said Ineos sports director Zak Dempster, according to Cycling Weekly. “But his ambition is a lot more than third in the Volta a Catalunya.”

In other words, this result is an undeniable success, but rider and team want more. Fortunately for them and for anyone who enjoys watching the two-time Grand Tour winner battling to reestablish himself as a legitimate stage racing contender, it’s still early in the 2024 season. There are still some big one-week events ahead, and Grand Tour season looms.

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