Insiders looking in are curious too, especially with Team Sky giving the 22-year-old leadership responsibility in the Giro d’Italia this May.
“He’s already really good, I hope he won’t progress much more!” 23-year-old Sam Oomen (Sunweb), the Netherlands’ future hope for Grand Tours, told Cycling Weekly with a laugh.
“For sure, he’s already 22, normally he’s still able to grow a bit and be a big super star, but I think he already is.
“I hope [to face him in many races]. I think at this moment he’s a step in front of me. I for sure wouldn’t manage to win Paris-Nice at this age. So it’s super impressive what he did. But I hope in the future we balance.”
Bernal made his debut in Grand Tours last year at the Tour de France helping Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome. It followed overall wins in the Tour Colombia and the Tour of California.
Bernal’s Paris-Nice win came ahead of established Colombian star Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who has been knocking on the door of a Tour victory for years but – for one reason or another – he has yet to get through.
“I think [Bernal has] learned a lot very quickly he’s also has the support of the team, I think he’s going to be huge, going to win the Tour, but first he has to prove himself and win the Giro d’Italia,” said journalist Georgina Ruiz Sandoval, who covers the Spanish speaking peloton from the Americas.
“This will be his first time aiming for the overall in a three-week race, he has to try to learn how to keep quiet first and then try to go in the third week. It’s another learning curve, but I think he’ll at least make the podium this year.
“Nairo still has the most wins, but at least we should give [Bernal] two to three years before we can say he’s going to be the biggest.
“He’s already really good, so it’s impresses what he’s done so far,” Bora-Hansgrohe sports director, Patxi Vila explained.
“Besides his performances, it’s how he acts and moves in the bunch. He doesn’t look like a young kid but 28 or 29, at the moment he’s amazing.
“I don’t know how far he can go, but at the moment he’s really good. He can time trial and climb, he’s smart in the race. I’m really impressed.”
Team Sky’s management is impressed too. Boss David Brailsford renewed his contract in 2018 to make sure to keep him within the team, with his deal lasting to the end of 2023.
“[He can go] really far, he’s pure talent, he’s a pure climber, really good in the time trial,” Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) said.
“He’s in a good team, probably the best team for him. It’s start of a big career. In this team [Sky], it can already be the Giro [win] this year.”
“He’s going to be around the sport for a long time,” added Mitchelton-Scott sports director Matt White, who is in charge of the Yates twins, Adam and Simon, both 26. “It be very interesting to see if he’ll perform at the Giro this year.”
Bernal heads back to Colombia. His next race will be the Volta a Catalunya before the Giro d’Italia, starting May 11 in Bologna.