Egan Bernal: "It makes me very angry when they say that there is no talent in Colombia, it's like a slap in the face"

Egan Bernal stopped by La Movida (Lance Armstrong's Spanish-language podcast) to talk with Victor Hugo Peña and Johan Bruyneel.

The INEOS Grenadiers rider comes from racing the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España in 2023 and has told of his plans for next year. At the moment, he is in Colombia starting his preseason:

"I'm in Bogotá at home, I'm training. My last race was the Vuelta and then I continued with activity for a couple of weeks and I was in Japan for the criteriums. Little by little I'm starting with the gym and little by little doing more cycling".

Bernal recounts what for him has been the most valuable thing about 2023 after suffering an accident in 2022 that almost cost him his life: "The most valuable thing was to have done those two races, the two big ones, Tour and Vuelta, and to have been able to finish the year with so many days of competition, let's say, accumulating a little more volume that I hope can help me for 2024. Although there was a lot of physical and mental wear and tear, I think that's something very important. On a personal level, the best thing was when I finished the Tour de France, it was an even better feeling than when I won it in 19";

He highlights his first two years at Androni, which were key to his later jump to Sky. He is very grateful to the Italian team for having opened the doors to professional racing in Europe: "The first year was a little difficult, the second year I was better, but in general I think that what Androni gave me was a lot in terms of confidence. I think I had very good people around me. I remember with great affection those two years I was there because of course it is a team with a small budget but the truth is that they always behaved well with me and if it wasn't for them I might not have made it.

After his great 2018, he arrived at the 2019 Tour de France as one of the favorites, although he claims he didn't arrive at the French event he ended up winning feeling he could win:

"I wasn't thinking about winning, if anything I was thinking about a top 5. It was good to get on the podium, but not to win it. I saw it as very, very complicated because I was a bit like a co-leader with Thomas. So let's say that for me to be co-leader was like, okay, even better to go with a little less pressure and, if everything goes well, to make a fifth or third place was great, but let's say that winning I didn't see it so clear until I don't know stage 15 or so in the Pyrenees, that day I realized that Pinot and I were the ones who had one more point in the climb and at that moment I started to do the math".

The 2021 Giro d'Italia after a 2020 complicated by back pain born from doing so much rolling during the quarantine again gave him self-confidence:

"It influenced a lot in all that change of what I was as a rider but also this back pain that was born from doing so many laps in my forties. It was very special to win the Giro of course for 2020. For me it was like proving again to myself that I was at that level of being able to compete to win a grand tour".

He returned in 2022 to be a favorite for everything and then came his terrible accident that almost cost him his life: "Yes, I could have become a paraplegic. I came out fine, I can walk, I can have a normal life then. It's not to make a mental jerk of looking on the bright side of things, it's just true that I was very lucky."

Wanting to go back to being a professional helped him a lot in his recovery process: "It has helped me in this whole process to keep riding my bike, to keep trying to be a professional, to keep in my mind to reach the top, to focus not on the bad but to see that I was very lucky with everything that happened".

He is asked if his big goal in 2024 and in general in his career is to win the Vuelta a España: "I think that if I had to choose the race to win at the moment it would be the Vuelta a Espana. We all know how important it would be to win the three big ones. I think I could retire with peace of mind, but let's say that more than that I want to return to my best level. I think that would also make me very, very happy and I would be able to compete on equal terms with all the people who are dominating at the moment.

Plan for the start of the next season with the illusion of racing the Tour of Colombia: "At the moment I would like to start with the Nationals and if I could Tour de Colombia, race here at home, it could fill me with a little confidence. I think that would be ideal and then go to Europe and then the races that I try to do my best".

He ends up being asked by La Movida's colleagues if there is talent in Colombia: "It makes me very angry when they say that there is no talent in Colombia, it's like a slap in the face. There is a lot, a lot, a lot of talent, we just don't have the same support. We are on the other side of the world and cycling is becoming more technological. There is talent, but for one reason or another they don't have the right bike, the right nutrition, the right psychological support. Before one started with 20 years with the nutrition plan, now there are children with 15 years in Europe who are crazier than one I think that's the problem we have here in Colombia that is difficult to fix the truth because it is an investment of much time and much money.

Article written by Juan Larra.

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