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Egan Bernal could return to racing in 2022 after rapid rehabilitation

Egan Bernal
Egan Bernal working on a stationary bike during his rehabilitation (Image credit: Egan Bernal / Instagram)

Egan Bernal could make a return to racing before the end of the 2022 season, with his coach Xabier Artexte convinced that the Colombian can make a full recovery from the terrible injuries he suffered after riding into a parked bus in Colombia in January. 

The 25-year-old Ineos Grenadiers rider faces a long rehabilitation process but is already working with physiotherapists and proudly showing his rapid progress on social media. He has already gently turned his legs on a stationary bike and is working on his musculoskeletal stability, progress which makes Artexte optimistic. 

"If we're to think of the standard times needed to make a recovery, the answer would be no," Artexte told La Gazzetta dello Sport about a possible return to racing before the end of 2022.

"However, Egan is a top-level sportsman and his recovery skills are also above average. I wouldn't reject this possibility even without setting it as a fixed goal – it's an option that exists. He is working to get back as soon as possible. It could be 2023 but also the end of this year. We must not rule it out, far from it."

Bernal suffered 20 different fractures, including in his spine, femur and kneecap, when he rode into the bus at close to 65kph while tucked low on his time trial bike. He spent a week in intensive care, with doctors suggesting there was a 95 per cent chance of death or paraplegia. 

On Friday, the 2019 Tour de France winner posted a message on Instagram alongside a photograph of him working on his rehabilitation. 

"Good news coming soon," he wrote, without revealing exactly what the update will be. Artexte believes Bernal can return to the highest level of competition and so perhaps even return to be a Grand Tour contender. 

"I have always told the team doctor: yes, I have faith that he will return to the highest level," Artexte said. "I know what I'm saying has no scientific basis, because you can't know what's going to happen.

"But I see him working, and once he has achieved strong musculoskeletal stability again, he may even be able to correct some decompensation that was there before, and be more balanced.

"He's motivated and has an incredible desire to return. It will also be stronger psychologically. Without forgetting that in a path like yours you don't always improve, there could be occasional small pains, moments of tiredness, a few steps backwards. Fortunately, up to now, there have been no problems."

Artexte was in Colombia when the accident happened and stayed there while Bernal was in intensive care.  He and Ineos Grenadiers are working closely with medical staff in Colombia as Bernal continues with his rehabilitation. 

Later on Saturday, Bernal posted an image of himself working on his recovery on a stationary bike provided by team sponsor Tacx, while he'll also take to the swimming pool, too. It will take a little longer before he can resume riding outdoors, however.

"The wounds have healed and so he will be able to work in the swimming pool, doing hydrotherapy," Artexte said. "Ride? More than anything else it depends on his back because the knee and hip are already okay.

"Little by little, he is able to pedal in a seated position. He's not able to go out on the roads, but on  an adapted bike he will be able to ride at home in a comfortable ergonomic position. I've already ordered the bike."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.