21 things you didn't know about Egan Bernal

From his mountain bike beginnings, to gifting the Pope a custom bike

Egan Bernal
(Image credit: Getty)
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Date of birth13/01/1997
NicknameThe Golden Beetle / The Condor of Zipaquirá
PartnerMaria Fernanda (Mafe) Motas
Turned pro2016
TeamIneos Grenadiers
BikePinarello Dogma F
UCI wins19
Stage race wins8
Grand Tour wins2

Egan Bernal is one of Colombian cycling's most talented exports. Born in the capital city of Bogotá, he was raised in nearby Zipaquirá, and today stands as the only person from his country to have ever won the Tour de France, doing so in the 2019 edition.

Bernal's Grand Tour successes continued in 2021, when he earned himself the Giro d'Italia's maglia rosa, taking two stage wins in the process. 

A life-threatening crash the following year halted the Colombian's rapid development, but he is now back on the road, and set to lead his Ineos Grenadiers team at the Tour once again this July. 

Ahead of the race, here are 21 things you didn't know about the 'Condor of Zipaquirá'. 

Egan Bernal

(Image credit: Getty)

1. His father, Germán, was a cyclist, although not at a professional level, and used to take him out on weekend rides when he was a child. 

2. He entered his first race when he was eight years old, and had to borrow a helmet, since he didn't have one. "It was huge on me," he told VeloNews. "It was so big it came down around my eyes and I couldn’t see. In the end, I won — but I couldn’t see anything and I didn’t even know the race was over." He also wore football shorts and a sweatshirt. 

3. As a prize for winning his first race, Bernal was given cycling kit, free membership of the local institute of recreation and sports, and coaching. Thus his journey in cycling began. 

4. He initially focused on mountain biking, collecting a silver and a bronze medal in the junior cross country events at the 2014 and 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. 

5. Before signing his first pro contract, Bernal underwent laboratory tests which revealed his VO2 max to be 88.8ml/kg/min, a very high reading, comparable to Grand Tour winners. Later tests would see his score rise into the 90s. 

6. At the age of 19, he joined Italian Continental team Androni Giocattoli - Sidermec, bypassing the under-23 ranks and going straight to pro level. 

7. He won the Tour de l'Avenir in 2017, following in the footsteps of Greg LeMond, Miguel Induráin and his compatriot Nairo Quintana. 

8. He is the fourth youngest Tour de France winner of all time, claiming the yellow jersey aged 22 years and 196 days. Only François Faber (1887), Tadej Pogačar (2020) and Henri Cornet (1884) were younger. 

9. Bernal is an ambassador of Colombian beer brand Cerveza Andina, who released a limited edition lager, 'La Egandina', after he won the Giro d'Italia in 2021.

10. He suffered "serious facial trauma" in a crash at the 2018 Clásica San Sebastián, with scans revealing a nasal fracture and a small bleed to the brain. 

11. Four years later, he underwent nose surgery to treat a deviated septum and improve the passage of air. 

12. The Colombian was involved in a life-threatening training ride crash on 24 January 2022, cycling into the back of a stationary bus at 62km/h. He was left with 20 fractures, underwent two round of spinal surgery, and later revealed that he had a 95% chance of becoming a paraplegic

13. Bernal launched his own cycling squad in 2022, called the EB Project, to help nurture young talents in his native Colombia. 

14. He has a younger brother, Ronald, who is eight years his junior and is also a cyclist.  

15. As an infant, Bernal suffered bouts of illness. "I had lung problems and I was often ill," he told Matt Rendell, author of Colombia Es Pasión!. "[My mother] was always taking me to the doctor." 

16. When he was younger, Bernal used to help his mother, a flower factory worker, by selling bouquets door-to-door in their neighbourhood. 

17. He is a catholic, and described meeting the Pope in 2021 as "the most beautiful experience I have had in my life".

18. Bernal gifted the Pope a Giro d'Italia maglia rosa and a custom-painted Pinarello Dogma, adorned in the colours of the pontiff's native Argentina.

Egan Bernal

(Image credit: Getty)

19. He studied journalism for one semester at the Universidad de La Sabana, north of Bogotá, before opting to pursue bike racing.

20. If Bernal wasn't a cyclist, he might be a political journalist, according to Ineos Grenadiers sports director Oliver Cookson. “He seems to have a wise head on his shoulders,” Cookson told VeloNews in 2018. 

21. The Colombian is engaged in politics, and endorsed the centre-right candidate Federico 'Fico' Gutiérrez in his country's 2022 presidential elections. 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.