Although he's said he plans to target the 2020 Tour de France, Chris Froome has also said that he expects 22-year-old teammate and 2019 champion Egan Bernal "to do amazing things in our sport", while admitting that he didn't quite expect a challenge from the young Colombian prodigy so soon.
"I could see in the early days with Egan that he was a huge talent," Froome said in a video interview Team Ineos released late last week. "He's someone who is going to go on to do amazing things in our sport, but I didn't expect to have him down as the 2019 winner of the Tour de France."
Froome, of course, missed the chance to win a record-tying fifth Tour this year when he crashed out of the Critérium du Dauphiné with multiple fractured bones. Team Ineos still had defending champion Geraint Thomas on the roster, but it was Bernal who surged ahead in the Alps and deposed previous race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
"What he's achieved is phenomenal," Froome said. "He's taken on the best in the world and he's won. I certainly couldn't have imagined achieving victory like that at such a young age."
The four-time Tour de France winner also had a bit of a warning for Bernal, however.
"Egan's life is about to change forever," said Froome, who accompanied Bernal at home at the Tour Colombia 2.1 in February. "Just being in Colombia this year and understanding how big cycling is in Colombia, I don't quite think he knows what's going to hit him when he gets home."
Froome admitted to finding a way to enjoy his own time at home this year, despite being laid up recovering from his injuries and missing out on riding the Tour. He took solace in watching the performances on TV.
"It was really special to be able to watch it as a fan, and obviously knowing him so well and knowing all my teammates and the rest of the riders in the peloton, it made the race really come alive for me," he said. "As much as I wanted to be there, there was a side of me that really enjoyed just kicking back and watching it this year."
Despite heading into 2020 with yet another teammate as the Tour's defending champion, Froome took confidence from the fact that the British squad were able to wrangle the race under control in the final week and deliver yet another yellow jersey podium in Paris.
"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," Froome said. "To win the Tour seven times in eight years and with four riders... That doesn't happen by chance."