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The career of Egan Bernal: A Colombian story of ups and downs

On Monday, the 24th of January 2022, Egan Bernal crashed into a parked bus when doing a time trial training with a couple of teammates. The bus stopped to drop off some of its passengers, but Bernal didn't notice. The impact of the accident was heavy, the injuries severe. Another long revalidation awaits him. Unfortunately the successful career of the Colombian has already been scarred by multiple setbacks.

Egan Bernal after his GC win in Giro d'Italia. (c) AFP
On top of the cycling world

In July 2019, the world of the Colombian opened completely. After a good start of the season with wins in Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse, Egan went to the Tour de France mainly as a domestique. Who knew what was going to happen during the three following weeks…

INEOS took defending champion Geraint Thomas to France as their leader. The first week went well for the Welshman, but he started to crack during stage 14, from Tarbes to Col du Tourmalet, and stage 15, arriving on Prat d’Albis. However Bernal was able to stick with the race favorites till that point. He took over the team leadership in a nice-fashioned way and ended the Tour wearing the yellow jersey in Paris. A new Colombian cycling superstar was born.

Series of bad luck
(c) Reuters

2020 preluded a bad period of time. Covid was looking around the corner, with the withdrawal of several races as a consequence. The pro peloton had to train every day, not knowing when race season would actually restart. The green light came around August. ASO, the Tour de France organizers, decided to let the peloton race in August. Luckily a few preparation races were able to cope with the severe Covid protocols, allowing them to organize their races.

The trouble for Bernal started in Critérium du Dauphiné, where backpain forced him to withdraw. Not a single soul from the outside saw this coming. What about the Tour in a couple of weeks? The team went into action immediately and did everything they could to get him sorted for the biggest Grand Tour of the season.

Egan made it to Nice, where the Covid edition of Le Tour de France took off. At the end of the second week his back collapsed again and hampered him too much. As a consequence, the team decided to take him out of the race before stage 17. The second withdrawal in a month was a fact.

His season was over. It was time to strengthen the back and set all eyes on the 2021 season. The medical staff finally discovered the cause of the issues: his legs didn’t have the same length. The team worked out how they could make sure it wouldn’t hamper him anymore, giving Egan the chance again to compete with the best.

The resurrection

The decision not to start in the 2021 edition of Tour de France made some eyes frown. Egan didn’t put up the fight with the Slovenians and decided to put all his eggs in the Giro d’Italia basket. Total domination occurred. 2 stage wins, 13 days in pink and 5 times top 3 in stages.

(c) Cor Vos

Only one time the Colombian showed signs of weakness, during stage 17 finishing on Sega di Ala. But whenever the leader has a bad day, someone from the team is there to encourage him to keep fighting to the top. We’ll remember the mighty Dani Martinez encouragement yelling Egan Bernal to the top. That’s what cycling is all about.

The brutal reality

The preparations for the 2022 season were in full swing, as Egan was planning to ride in France, meeting up with Pogacar, Roglic and the other Grand Tour superstars. The team decided to let Bernal do the winter training in his home country Colombia, together with several teammates. His offseason Strava stats were impressive and the future looked bright, but a stroke of bad luck was around the corner once again.

Egan publicly criticized the behavior of Colombian car drivers after being involved in several close calls with some cars. Luckily he was able to avoid the accidents, until a parked bus crossed his path.

After hitting the bus, Bernal immediately underwent surgery. The consequences of the crash were severe, there was no time to lose. After a couple of hours, the news came that Egan was stable and wouldn't have any neurological problems. The next 72 hours remained crucial for the rest of his career, and more importantly, for his life.

Impact on the team

The official confirmation of the injuries followed 24 hours after the crash. Egan suffered a fractured vertebrae, a fractured right femur, a fractured right patella, chest trauma, a punctured lung and several fractured ribs. Doctors were able to medically pin his right leg and stabilize the vertebrae fracture in two separate surgeries.

Egan was out for a ride with some of his teammates when he hit the bus. The impact on those witnesses will surely be big. Seeing your teammate and friend going down like that will have mental consequences without doubt. A revalidation of several months awaits the young Colombian. A rescheduling for the races awaits the team, but that's probably the least of their worries.

Cycling community

When the news of the crash came in, the cycling community was struck by disbelief. The person Egan Bernal is loved, appreciated and admired. Not only for his performances, but also for who he is as a person. #FuerzaEgan messages were all over the place on social media. Everyone supports him on his road to better times, which we hope to arrive as fast as possible...



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