Bernal would welcome Carapaz at Team Ineos
Colombian celebrates his Tour de France with hometown fans
Tour de France winner Egan Bernal was welcomed home to Zipaquirá, Colombia by huge crowds gathered in a public square, walking out onto a stage festooned with Tour de France-themed graphics and a banner declaring "Orgullo Zipaquireno" (Zipaquireno pride).
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Earlier in the day, Team Ineos posted a video in which four-time Tour winner Chris Froome said: "Egan's life is about to change forever". Having raced in Colombia in February, Froome predicted: "I don't quite think he knows what's going to hit him when he gets home."
The 22-year-old seemed relaxed as he thanked the fans for coming before taking a seat on a sofa along with his Credit Lyonnais stuffed lion to talk about what winning the Tour de France meant to him.
"A lot of people talk about the new era, maybe I can win another Tour de France, I am not sure about that, what I am sure is that I will continue to ride a bicycle, it is what I like and for me, it is not a job," Bernal said.
"Everything has happened so fast that so far I am assimilating how important it has been to win the Tour for Colombia. While at home I realized all that it means for Colombia, I feel very proud to contribute something to society."
Bernal took the lead in the Tour de France with an attack on the penultimate mountain stage on the Col de l'Iseran only to see the final climb cancelled by a landslide. The next stage was shortened as well, but with teammate Geraint Thomas, Bernal withstood all attacks to bring home the first Tour de France victory for Colombia.
It has been a season of firsts for South America, with Ecuadorian rider Richard Carapaz (Movistar) taking the overall victory in the Giro d'Italia - a first for that country, too.
When asked about the rumoured arrival of Carapaz to Team Ineos next season, Bernal said, "Carapaz is a great climber and if he arrives at Ineos I will be very happy because I can learn enough from him.
"I am not thinking about the future, I just want to enjoy the here and now. I am here and I do not think about the next year, I enjoy being here with people."
On the celebration, he added "It is going to be a day that I will not be able to forget, to see so many people gathering for me. Thank you very much! I decided to make this press conference open to the public so that they would hear that I feel very proud of being Colombian and Zipaquireño.
"For me, it is an honour that you are here and for allowing me to dream of winning a Tour de France."
With the arrival of Carapaz, the potential return of Chris Froome, Bernal and last year's Tour winner Geraint Thomas, Team Ineos will face some tough decisions in who to support during the Tour.
Froome said in the Team Ineos video that he enjoyed watching Bernal win the Tour, that "it made the race really come alive for me".
"This year's Tour de France was such a closely contested Tour de France, and it was only at the last moment that Ineos managed to take control and get in that yellow jersey position. To win the Tour seven times in eight years and with four riders, that's doesn't happen by chance."
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