Bernal, according to Mazuera, wanted to do little else than pedal. “Betting on him was not hard because his commitment and results were evident,” Mazuera said by phone while he was on his way to Paris to watch the final stage.
“Everything has happened very fast in the last four years. Now Egan has won the best race in the world and it’s hard to take in, to realize what everyone that has been around him in that time has helped achieve.”
Matt Rendell, a sports commentator and author of “Kings of the Mountains: How Colombia’s Cycling Heroes Changed Their Nation’s History,” said the rural roots of Colombian cyclists have been important to their success. Bernal shares some common traits with Nairo Quintana, a cycling star with a Giro d’Italia and a Vuelta a España under his belt.
“Egan is very much like Nairo when he was 22 — a strong phenomenon, great at the mountainous circuits. But Egan has a team Nairo never did. He’s also mature and hungry, and he’s not afraid to win.”
Bernal speaks English and Italian and has proved to be an eloquent spokesman for the current Colombian crop, perhaps because he studied at journalism school on a scholarship before dropping out to race full time.
During the last year, Bernal fell three times and underwent clavicle, nose, cheek and jaw surgeries. He lost several teeth in an accident that involved multiple cyclists in the Clásico de San Sebastián race in August. In May, when Bernal was gearing up for the Giro d’Italia, the second biggest race in the international circuit, another accident rendered him unable to move for weeks. While he missed out on Italy, he gained time to get ready for France, where he arrived as one of the favorites.
His success owes much to a well-oiled machine, and the way Team Ineos, sponsored by a British chemical company, bet on him. When Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion of the Tour and the original team leader, fell behind in the Alps, he worked along Bernal to support his final stretch.