Wout Poels (Team Ineos) believes that his teammate Egan Bernal can become one of the greatest riders of all time. Unless the Tour de France takes a dramatic twist on the final stage to Paris on Sunday the Colombian will win the race at just his second attempt and the tender age of 22.
"We're going to see Bernal like this for the next ten years. It's pretty unbelievable what he did at 22 years old. It's massive," his teammate Poels told Cyclingnews on Saturday.
"He goes quicker up. I don't know exactly what it is. When you're born you get something from your parents and he seems to have grown really quick, learned really quick in terms of riding GC, and how to pace the climbs. He's a really clever rider."
Bernal came into the Tour de France with joint leadership shared between himself and defending champion Geraint Thomas. However Bernal gradually put time into the Welshman in the Pyrenees and Alps, gaining enough time to take the yellow jersey from Julian Alaphilippe on the stage to Tignes with a solo attack on the Col de l'Iseran before the stage was shortened due to extreme weather conditions.
With both Thomas and the injured Chris Froome both in their thirties, Bernal represents the future.Although there is never a guarantee that a young Tour winner will dominate the years to come – Jan Ullrich springs to mind in that regards, Poels believes that his young teammate has he skills to be a contender and cement himself as one of cycling's greatest ever winners.
"I hope he can win as many Grand Tours as possible. I think he can be one of the greatest of all time. He's winning the Tour at 22, so he has all the cards in his hands. He has an amazing future.
"He was all the time up there. Only his TT wasn't amazing when compared to the others but he gained time on the Tourmalet and again on stage 19. It was a bit of a weird day but he again showed that he was the strongest."
With Bernal, Thomas and eventually Chris Froome on the Grand Tour programme for next year, the Team Ineos squad have the task of dividing up race goals between them. Froome is still seeking a record-equalling fifth Tour title, while Thomas has already talked up his hopes of claiming a second win in 2020.
"It's going to be busy at Ineos but they have to split the Giro, Tour, and Vuelta. The three of them want to win the Tour so that's a nice job for Dave [Brailsford]," Poels said.
Whether Poels is there to see it next year is unclear. He is now out of contract and when asked if he would be at the Tour next year with Team Ineos he admitted that his future was unclear. Several teams have expressed interest in the Dutch rider.
"Not sure. I'm at the end of my contract but we'll see in the next few weeks."