Savio brought Bernal to Europe in 2016, offering the then 19-year-old a two-year deal. The Colombian was an instant hit and won last year's Tour de l'Avenir. He signed a contract with Team Sky for 2018 and 2019 and is set to sign an improved deal later this year. This season he sealed his Tour selection with second place in the Tour de Romandie, and then a winning ride at the Tour of California in May.
Bernal was originally scheduled to make his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana but such was his impressive transition to WorldTour racing that Team Sky decided to give him a shot at the Tour. The 21-year-old didn't disappoint and was often the British team's last remaining domestique in the mountains. On Alpe d'Huez he held off attacks from several riders, including Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Romain Bardet, before helping to set up Geraint Thomas for the win. Bernal eventually finished 15th overall in Paris and second in the white jersey competition.
Savio was at the Tour for the Alpe d'Huez performance.
"At the Tour, Egan Bernal was wonderful. Wonderful. If you remember I presented Egan Bernal when I signed him and turned him professional. He was only 19 years old, and after the first race, I said he would become a big rider. We can confirm that now. He will win a big tour, like the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia or maybe the Vuelta a Espana," Savio told Cyclingnews from his home in northern Italy.
"He's 21 years old. He had a wonderful Tour de France, working and working for Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome. This was a very good experience for him. I came to the Tour for the Alpe d'Huez stage and I met him at the start and it was great to see him be such a big protagonist in the Tour. I think he can win in the next few years but he still needs more experience. At a team like Sky he can progress. He needs time. He turned professional early with my team but we went slowly together and remember it's not just physical progression but also psychological. Now he has a very good equilibrium."
Sosa so good
Savio's knack for spotting talent has continued with another Colombian rider, Ivan Sosa, signed to his team. The 20-year-old isn't yet the complete package but was part of Bernal's winning team at last year's Tour de l'Avenir, and he won the Adriatica Ionica Race in June. Last month Cyclingnews broke the news that Sosa would join Trek Segafredo for 2019, and the likelihood is that the move will be announced in the coming days.
"Sosa is a very good climber. He's a very good rider," insisted Savio.
"He's not Egan Bernal, who can ride well in time trials. At the moment Sosa is just a very good climb. But it's possible that Sosa can progress.
When asked about Sosa's move into the World Tour, Savio replied: "In three or four days, things will be more precise. At the moment it's not official but I think it will be okay. For the moment there's no press release that makes it official. It's a question of some days."
And as for Savio's next transfer coup from South America? The veteran manager chuckled down the line before adding: "We will see. I will have some news later in the year."
If you've ever wanted to know what it feels like to be part of a top-level cycling team, and to be on the ground, inside the barriers, at the Tour de France, then RUNNING WITH WOLVES will take you there. It is available to rent for $3.99 USD or buy for $6.99 USD.