Team Sky have signed Colombian star Egan Bernal for a further five years after his first season with the team.
The 21-year-old joined the British WorldTour outfit at the start of 2018 and hugely impressed his team and the public.
After securing a general classification win at the Tour of California and riding his first Tour de France in his debut WorldTour year, the youngster has secured a ride for the next five years.
He is now contracted to ride for Sky until the end of 2023.
Team Sky principal, Sir Dave Brailsford said: “This is an important moment in the development of the team.
“A five-year deal in cycling is exceptional, but Egan is an exceptional talent.
“It is the clearest signal of our belief in Egan as a rider, with the potential to win the biggest races in the world in the coming years.
“Age is no barrier to ability. Egan is part of the next generation at Team Sky, our next big leader for Grand Tours in the years to come, as we continue to build for a bigger and better future.
“He is a top talent who has already shown his mental and physical strength in recent months. He will only keep on improving..”
Bernal rode for the Androni-Sidermec pro continental team for two years before joining Sky at the start of the 2018.
The Colombian national time trial champion started his first WorldTour season strong, with a sixth in the Tour Down Under GC, taking home the young rider’s jersey.
Brailsford added: “It is testament to the staff and other riders at Team Sky who have helped him develop over the last year.
“This is his first year as a professional and we have always taken great pride at Team Sky on being a team who can nurture and develop young riders.
“We all know there is much more to come from Egan. He is a big part of the next generation of Team Sky, an incredible crop of young riders, alongside the likes of Tao Geoghegan-Hart, Pavel Sivakov and Gianni Moscon.
“We are all excited about their unique opportunity to continue to learn from the current generation of great champions – Froome, Thomas and Kwiatkowski – as they support them on the road over the coming years, with the goal of helping them to become champions themselves.”
“Finally, it is a strong signal of intent from the team about the future. We are proud of what we have achieved together at Team Sky since our formation, but we have even greater ambitions to keep on improving and Egan will be at the very heart of that.”
He then won the GC at the Colombia Oro y Paz stage race in his home country.
Then Bernal went on to ride to second overall in the Tour de Romandie, before securing his GC victory in the US in May.
But Bernal’s season didn’t end there – he went on to ride his first Grand Tour in support of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas at the Tour de France. He was the youngest rider in the race.
His most memorable Tour performance came on Alpe d’Huez during stage 12, when he rode on the front for 8km of the legendary climb and dropped his compatriot Nairo Quintana.
Bernal’s ride set up Geraint Thomas to win the stage to Alpe d’Huez, and the Welshman went on to win the race overall.
The young rider said: “It feels like a new stage in my life. I know five years is a long time and that it’s not too common in cycling, but the team has been great for me. They offer me everything I could want and I’m excited about the future.
“I imagined my first year with the team would be different and I was nervous before I joined. But I found great people, a team that was ready to help me, and I enjoyed a good season. It was made easy for me.
“My ambition is to keep developing as a rider – to learn from and help the best and become a key member of the team for many years to come. For me there is no better place to do that than Team Sky.
“I’m really happy here because I have everything I could ask for. It’s a dream team and I don’t see myself anywhere else.”
It wasn’t plain sailing for the Colombian this season however, after he came down in a crash during the final stage of the Volta a Catalunya, fracturing his shoulder and collarbone in the early season.
Bernal’s then suffered nasty injuries in a horrific high-speed crash in the Clasica San Sebastian in August.
He had to have nose and mouth surgery after the crash, which also left him with a bleed on the brain.
The youngster is expected to return to racing as part of the Team Sky squad in the Giro dell’Emilia on Saturday.