Egan Bernal (opens in new tab) has stated his desire to return to the highest level of cycling and has great optimism he can do so, even if he knows deep down that it might take years or indeed could never happen at all.
The Colombian Ineos Grenadiers (opens in new tab)rider has made a remarkable recovery so far from the training crash that left him with a 95 per cent chance of death or paraplegia, and is already walking again and even turning pedals on a stationary bike.
Having broken his femur and kneecap as well as bones in separate sections of his spine, he still faces a long rehabilitation process just to return to normal body function, nevermind returning to the elite athletic condition that saw him win the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
Nevertheless, Bernal’s commitment is clear, as he revealed in conversation with the Semana magazine in Colombia - his first proper interview since his crash on January 24.
“I want to come back. It’s what I love most. I’m a cyclist, and I feel that if I wasn’t on a bike I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d find something, I’m sure, but at the moment I feel like a cyclist, I feel like an athlete, and for me the bike is my lifestyle," Bernal said.
“I want to recover as quickly as possible. At the moment we’re in a phase where I’m trying to be self-sufficient, not have to be helped out of bed. First of all I want to concentrate on that, on the basics, and when I have full movement in my body, then I’ll start to focus a bit more on the sporting aspect, but the idea is to return to competition as quickly as possible.”
As for how quickly that might be, there is no time frame at this point, and there are no guarantees in any case. Interestingly, however, Bernal indicated he has a feeling things could move very quickly - as indeed they have done already.
“I have faith. I don’t know why I believe that I can do it and why I believe it’s going to be quick. The doctors tell me off when I tell them it’s going to be quick but I don’t know if quick is going to be one year, 10 years, or six months, three months…”
Bernal is not, at this point, thinking in terms of results. Having already won the Tour and Giro, he had made an ambition of the Vuelta a España to complete the Grand Tour set, but measuring himself against past achievements would, he says, be a mistake.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get to the level to win the Tour de France, because it’s already a difficult thing to do. If it’s hard enough with all being well, I don’t know what it’ll be like now,” he said.
“I want to be the best version of Egan Bernal. What Egan Bernal can do now, obviously, is work to get to that level. And believe me, it’s hard work, and I’m doing it, and as I regain movement I’m going to do more. In fact, I believe I’m the best version of myself in these moments when I have some kind of injury or setback - I feel I can be extra focused and that’s what I want to strive for.”
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.