Egan Bernal has admitted that the terrible training crash, with ongoing recovery from multiple fractures and spinal surgery, has changed his life forever.
It is still too early to suggest when he can return to racing and the 25-year old Colombian still faces months of rehabilitation and hard work. But for now, he is just happy to be alive.
"I actually received an important lesson from this accident, so absurdly I'm actually thankful for having lived through this experience," Bernal said, speaking from the heart as he often does before he joined around four thousand other people on a Zwift ride called 'Ride With Egan'.
"I'm happy to be alive and little by little I'm starting to feel like a cyclist again. I want to say thanks to all the people who wrote to me and sent me positive energy, they really helped me. Having the energy and support of an entire country, of so many people in cycling from around the world and especially of my loved ones, has allowed me to move forward and contradict the first terrible diagnoses of the doctors."
Bernal is slowly recovering from his many injuries, fully aware that doctors said there was a 95 per cent chance of paraplegia and that his professional racing career could have been over.
Two and a half months on from the crash, his 20 different fractures have healed, the pain that kept him awake at night has faded and he is riding again but the whole experience has taught him to look at life from a different perspective.
"The accident allowed me to see things from a different perspective. Before, I was only focused on cycling and being the best rider in the world. But the real priority in life is to feel good and be able to be with those who love us," he said emotionally.
"When you are attached to a ventilator you feel fragile and vulnerable, only then do you really value what you previously underestimated or took for granted.
"Now I send my strength to those who are suffering. We must have patience and give the right consideration to what happens to us in life. Being forced to miss races can be traumatic, but it is more important to still be in this world, surrounded by the affection of family and friends. Sometimes we forget what really matters."
In mid-March Bernal's coach, Xabier Artetxe told La Gazzetta dello Sport that Bernal had an incredible desire to return to racing, hinting that he could be back in action even in later 2022.
Despite riding slowly on Zwift and outdoors, Bernal is more cautious, the cane in his hand, reminding everyone that he is still struggling to walk.
"I don't know what the recovery time will be. I don't want to rush or set a date for my return, it wouldn't be ideal given everything that has happened," Bernal said.
"Clearly I hope to recover as soon as possible but I have to listen to my body. Ineos Grenadiers are helping me and will give me all the time I need, that's reassuring for me. Before thinking about getting back to winning, I have to get back to full health and finish a race. That would already be an important success."
Fear of crashing again or being unable to take the risks of professional racing do not appear to be a concern.
"I hope I'm not afraid to do what I love," Bernal said.
"I don't know if when I go back to going fast I'll be scared or not. For now, I've only done a few rides. Fear was certainly not the first sensation I felt when I got back in the saddle. Instead, it was pure happiness."
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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.
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