Egan Bernal's breakthrough year

05 Oct 2018

Egan Bernal's breakthrough year

Related riders

Share this article

Following his win at the Tour of California back in May, Egan Bernal’s race programme took a turn in an unexpected direction.

After six remarkable months in a Team Sky jersey, the 21 year old was selected to ride the Tour de France in support of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas.

The youngest rider in the race and the youngest rider to ever represent Team Sky at the Tour, Bernal didn’t miss a beat. Like every other challenge he’d faced in his opening season at WorldTour level, he tackled it in typically assured fashion, playing a starring role on Alpe d’Huez and in the crucial, mountainous third week.

It capped a remarkable year for the precocious Colombian. Fresh from signing a new five-year deal, we’ve taken a look back at his breakthrough season.
null

Team leader in his first Team Sky outing, Bernal led the line at the Tour Down Under. As in previous years the Australian race was decided on Willunga Hill and Egan took the fight to Richie Porte, attempting to follow the Australian’s decisive attack. He battled bravely on the climb and came home fifth, helping him to seal the best young rider classification and finish sixth overall. It was a fine start to life at Team Sky.
Egan sealed the best young rider classification at the Tour Down Under in his first Team Sky outing

Egan sealed the best young rider classification at the Tour Down Under in his first Team Sky outing

From there it was back home to Colombia for the Colombian national championships and Colombia Oro y Paz, a new stage race in his homeland.

Racing in front of incredible support Bernal pulled off a surprise in the national time trial championship, taking the win. Afterwards he said: “This morning I was thinking about not losing too much time. I even looked at who was behind me because I worried about being overtaken, so to get the victory is great!”
That buoyed his confidence heading into Oro y Paz and he sealed the first road victory of his Team Sky career with a daring display on the final day.

Attacking from the group of favourites inside the final three kilometres he dovetailed with teammates Sebastian Henao and Tao Geoghegan Hart up the road, distancing heavyweights Rigoberto Uran and Nairo Quintana behind. 

Crossing the line, an exhausted Bernal looked back and watched the clock. He had done it, by just nine seconds. “I didn’t have a lot to lose but I had everything to gain,” he said.
Egan crosses the line on the final day of Oro y Paz. Had he done enough to take the title?

Egan crosses the line on the final day of Oro y Paz. Had he done enough to take the title?

He had. The whole team joined him on the podium to celebrate

He had. The whole team joined him on the podium to celebrate

Next up for Egan was the Volta a Catalunya and another demonstration of his development. The race was set to be decided on the brutal queen stage and it came down to a three-way battle on the slopes of La Molina between Egan, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana. Despite being outnumbered by the Moivstar duo Egan dug deep, distancing Quintana in the closing stages, but it was the experienced Valverde who won out in the sprint to the line.

That ride set Egan up for second overall and his first WorldTour podium, but he was caught up in an unfortunate crash on the final day. Left with nowhere to go after a crash in front of him, he suffered clavicular and scapular fractures, ruling him out for nearly a month of racing.
null

null

Back in action at the Tour de Romandie towards the end of April, Egan upset the odds once again with a fantastic win in the gruelling uphill time trial.

The Colombian clocked an unbeatable marker of 25 minutes and 10 seconds on the constant 10 kilometre uphill drag to Villars, taking his first WorldTour win by four seconds. Only three riders were able to finish within a minute of his time - Primoz Roglic, Richie Porte and Steven Kruijswijk. He went on to finish second overall - but wouldn’t have to wait long to claim his first overall WorldTour victory in Team Sky colours.
null

It took just two days for Egan Bernal to stamp his authority on the Tour of California. He came through the opening sprint stage without any difficulties and then took the initiative on day two, ripping clear of the bunch with two kilometres to race and putting a hefty 20 seconds into his nearest rival, Rafal Majka.

The Colombian relinquished the race lead two days later in the tough time trial, leaving him 23 seconds shy of Tejan van Garderen with three days to race.

It all came down to the decisive sixth stage, where a faultless team performance and another titanic turn from Tao Geoghegan Hart set Egan up to attack 10 kilometres from home. What was left of the peloton never saw him again. He won by a huge one minute and 28 seconds ahead of nearest rival Adam Yates, roaring back into a race lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
That sensational ride in California showed the world that Egan was ready to tackle his first Tour de France. Selected to support Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas in the mountains, the Colombian came to the fore when it mattered most.
The standout moment came on Alpe d'Huez. Leading Froome and Thomas onto the climb, he countered attacks by Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali, and set a blistering tempo up the fearsome climb, driving through Dutch Corner and peeling off with six kilometres to race. Thomas went on to win the stage, strengthening his grip on the maillot jaune.

Despite riding a true support role and suffering a tough crash on the cobbled stage nine - which saw him lose 16 minutes - Bernal still finished 15th overall in his maiden Grand Tour. 
Egan leads Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome through Dutch corner

Egan leads Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome through Dutch corner

Sadly, an unfortunate crash at San Sebastian - just a week after riding down the Champs-Élysées - saw Egan suffer a serious facial trauma, a nasal fracture, and a small bleed on the brain, keeping him off the bike for the majority of August. But, ever the fighter, Egan has worked hard on his recovery and will return to action at the Italian Classics before the season is out, as he prepares for a bigger and better 2019. 

What a year.
null

Share this article