The talent of young Colombian rider Egan Bernal is undeniable.
In his debut WorldTour year, the 21-year-old won two stages races and unleashed a staggering support performance on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez.
Team Sky have also seen something special in Bernal, announcing a new five-year contract for the Colombian – a very unusual move in a sport that often works in one, two or three year deals.
But as Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford said during the announcement, Bernal is the British outfits future leader in Grand Tours.
As the 2018 season comes to a close, we look back at his stand-out debut year.
In a promising opening to his WorldTour career, Bernal was chosen as the Team Sky leader for the first major race of the year, the Tour Down Under in January.
The youngster did battle with Australian favourite Richie Porte on Willunga Hill, and was able to finish sixth overall – a strong enough performance to take home the young rider classification.
The following month, Bernal returned home and the victory floodgates were opened.
He stormed home to victory in the Colombian national time trial championships to start.
After his first win in 2018, Bernal said: “This morning I was thinking about not losing too much time. I even looked at who was behind me because I was worried about being overtaken, so to get the victory is great.”
The next stop was another race on home roads for Bernal, at the Colombia Oro y Paz.
Bernal placed well on the first three stages, before riding into overall victory on the final day – the first stage race success with Team Sky in only his second week-long race.
After crossing the line, an exhausted Bernal said: “I didn’t have a lot to lose but I had everything to gain.”
Then came the first big setback for the youngster at the Volta a Catalunya in Spain.
After a spectacular week, which had seen Bernal go toe-to-toe with Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), the Colombian was placed second overall heading into the final day.
But Bernal was caught in a crash as a rider went down in front of him on the last stage, suffering clavicular and scapular fractures.
He was out of racing for almost a month but this would not be his last big crash of the season.
The Tour de Romandie marked the first return of Bernal in April, and another resounding performance.
Bernal smashed a 10km uphill time trial on stage 3, beating Richie Porte and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) to the top step.
The race ended in another second place overall in a stage rage for Bernal, and a third youth category win.
Next up for Bernal was a trip to the United States, to lead Team Sky in the Tour of California.
The Colombian tore away from his rivals on stage two to take the yellow jersey and hold it on stage three.
But on stage four, the individual time trial saw Bernal lose the leader’s jersey to Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
The race came down to the final stage, when Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart set up Bernal on the final climb, who then attacked with 10km left to race.
He finished 1-28 ahead of the peloton, securing his first WorldTour stage race victory, just five months into his Team Sky career.
Tour de France
It was a huge moment for the youngster in his debut year, and Bernal did not disappoint.
He showed his class on stage 12 – the road to Alpe d’Huez.
The young Colombian countered attacks from his compatriot Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and former Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
Bernal set a staggering pace up the climb until he peeled off with 6km to race, setting up team-mate Geraint Thomas for the stage win.
Despite riding in support of his team, and losing 16 minutes due to a crash, Bernal climbed back up the GC to finish 15th overall, and second in the young rider’s classification.
Just a week after riding down the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Bernal suffered his second major setback of the year.
The youngster went down in a high-speed crash in the Clásica San Sebastián and suffered a major facial trauma, nasal fracture and a small bleed on the brain.
After a number of surgeries and spending most of August off the bike, Bernal returned to racing at the Italian one-day races this week.
After such a mind-blowing debut year with Team Sky, and a contract running until 2023, Bernal will be an exciting rider to watch next season and for years to come.