Chris Froome says Egan Bernal’s life will change beyond recognition after his stunning Tour de France victory, aged just 22.
Bernal is the first Colombian to ever win the French Grand Tour, a historic moment for a nation that is obsessed with the sport.
Froome, a four-time Tour winner, was forced to watch his Team Ineos team-mate from his sick-bed, having broken his leg in a horrific crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné during his build-up to the Tour.
“I could see in the early days with Egan that he’s a huge talent,” said Froome, in his first interview since his career-threatening crash.
“He’s someone who is going to go on to do amazing things in our sport, but I didn’t expect to have him down as the 2019 winner of the Tour de France.
“What he’s achieved is phenomenal. He’s taken on the best in the world and he’s won. I certainly couldn’t have imagined achieving victory like that at such a young age.”
After Froome’s crash, Team Ineos announced that Bernal and 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas would share leadership privileges, with Thomas looking like the stronger rider early in the race.
But the high altitude of the Alps gave Bernal the advantage, as he rode into the yellow jersey on the penultimate mountain stage after landslides caused the race to be stopped.
Bernal rode into Paris as the youngest rider to win the Tour in the post-war era and as the first Colombian, which Froome says will have a huge impact on his life.
Froome added: “Egan’s life is about to change forever. Being in Colombia this year and understanding how big cycling is in Colombia, I don’t quite think he knows what’s going to hit him when he gets home.”
Froome has returned to training, albeit on the turbo trainer and only using one leg, and says his only goal is to return to the Tour de France.
The 34-year-old said: “It was really special to be able to watch it as a fan and knowing [Bernal] so well and knowing all my team-mates and the rest of the riders in the peloton, it made the race really come alive for me.
“As much as I wanted to be there, there was a side of me that really enjoyed just kicking back and watching it this year.”