Bernal, only 21-years-old, earned a spot in the eight-man 2018 Tour team after winning the Oro y Paz and Tour of California, and placing second overall in the Tour de Romandie this spring.
“I’m here to help them [Froome and Thomas] for the GC, but also to learn because it is a good team with a lot of experience,” Bernal told Cycling Weekly while checking over his bike for the fourth stage.
“When I’m with them, I learn a lot. In the bus, how they do the things, and also in the peloton, how to move through. I think it’s good for me to learn.”
Colombian experts say that Bernal has a spark unlike any they have seen in Nairo Quintana (Movistar) or others beforehand. He time trials, climbs and is robust – and already at a young age.
His former general manager Gianni Savio, who runs the Androni-Sidermec team where Bernal raced for 2016 and 2017, believes a Tour de France victory will come soon.
“I think I need to do a lot of Grand Tours first before I come and fight for the GC,” Bernal said.
“I’m just 21 so it’s not too easy to come as a 21-year-old to fight with guys like Nibali or Froomey, it’s really difficult. First I need to learn a lot, then with the years, I can come and fight for the GC or I don’t know.
“I think it’s best to finish this first Grand Tour and then think about it.”
Before joining Sky, Bernal won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2017. Then of course, at 19, Savio said that he tested with a VO2max of 88.8 millilitres per kilo.
Team Sky signed him as part of their class of 2018 recruits that includes Kristoffer Halvorsen, Chris Lawless and Pavel Sivakov.
“There are lot of things I need to improve on, not just the TT or the flats, it’s a couple of things, not just one,” Bernal said.
“I need to learn a lot, but many things you can learn by doing a lot of races with these guys. You may make some mistakes, but you can learn a lot from that too.
“I’m not really nervous about being here. The team knows that I’m just 21, it’s my first Grand Tour, and I’m calm because they know that.
“If I make some mistakes, it’s not good, but they can understand that. I try to follow them and listen to what they tell me and to learn.”
Bernal suffered a setback on stage one when he was involved in a crash that held up GC hopefuls Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing). Rather than a mistake or error, he sees it as learning en route to the ultimate goal of Grand Tour greatness.
“California and Romandie are different races than the Tour,” he warned about reading too much into his success this year.
“You can see guys who can win in one week, but in three weeks, no. It’s about recovering, the third week, and about how to face a long TT.”