Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) will return to racing this week, making his season debut and his comeback from his horrific winter training crash at the Tour of Denmark.
The Colombian, who won the Tour de France in 2019 and Giro d'Italia in 2021, has spent nearly eight months on the sidelines after suffering life-threatening injuries when he crashed into the back of a bus while training in Colombia in late January.
With fractured vertebrae and several rounds of emergency surgery in intensive care, Bernal was considered lucky to have survived and it was uncertain he'd be able to return to cycling at all, let alone this year.
But his recovery progressed far quicker than anyone could have imagined and already in the spring Bernal was showing such progress that rumours began to circulate over a return in the autumn.
After being linked first to the Vuelta a España and then the Vuelta a Burgos and Deutschland Tour, he was named in Ineos Grenadiers' line-up for the Tour of Denmark, which begins on Tuesday and runs through Saturday.
"After what happened to me in January this has been the moment I’ve been waiting for – to race with my teammates again," Bernal said.
"I can’t emphasise enough how hard the last eight months have been for me, both physically and mentally. That day, and the journey that I have been on since will be a part of me forever, it’s something you never forget.
"As is the support that I have received from my family, my girlfriend, the team, Ineos, as well as my fans. As humans we really rely on each other in our times of need, and this year has been a time of need for me - I can’t thank everyone who has been there for me enough. That support has been invaluable in motivating me every day to work hard to be able to race again. To you all, a heartfelt thank you."
After two weeks in hospital, Bernal returned home in early February, able to walk gingerly while wearing a neck and back brace. Just a week later, he was able to spin his legs on a recumbent exercise bike, a first sign of his eagerness to work his way back to racing.
In early March he was able to ride his race bike on an indoor trainer and by the end of the month he was out riding on the open road. Since then he has surprised everyone with his progress, racking up the kilometres while introducing sprints and efforts to start to recover his professional form.
A team training camp in Andorra was a key moment, a two-week block that effectively confirmed he would be able to return to racing before the end of the year. After a final round of medical checks at the weekend, that will become a reality on Tuesday.
"When you think back to where Egan was only eight months ago it's incredible the progress he has made," said deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth.
"He’s shown the world the true strength of his character, and demonstrated remarkable grit in returning to race-readiness. We’re still on a journey with Egan, but lining up at the Tour of Denmark is a significant and hard-earned milestone."
The Tour of Denmark will offer Bernal five days of racing, with two expected bunch sprints, one 12km time trial, a 240km day with gravel sectors, and a punchy climbing stage to finish.
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