Little was known about Egan Bernal before he was signed by Team Sky in 2018. Another rider from the long line of Colombian climbers, he was signed by Androni-Sidermec team boss Gianni Savio in 2016 and immediately began racing at the senior level, bypassing the U23 category.
Impressive results came quickly, with top 10 finishes in the Vuelta a San Juan and Tour of the Alps. His first professional win came in the Sibiu Cycling Tour with two stage victories and the overall, rubber-stamping his position as a force to be reckoned with.
The string of results drew the attention of Team Sky talent scouts and a contract buyout of €350,000 saw Bernal switch teams at the end of the 2017 season, then signing a five-year contract extension at the end of the 2018 season.
Throughout 2018, there were a flurry of questions surrounding the Colombian’s development and whether Ineos were over-racing Bernal during a packed season. He rode as a mountain domestique in the Tour, supporting Froome to victory and putting in a phenomenal performance on Alpe d’Huez, whilst also finishing second in the white jersey competition and 15th overall. The season also saw him win the overall at Amgen Tour of California and podium at the Tour de Romandie.
It was 2019 when Bernal’s potential fully emerged as he became a leader in a Grand Tour. While he was initially due to lead Team Ineos at the Giro d’Italia, a training crash on the eve of the race resulted in him missing the Giro and instead racing the Tour.
Bernal came into the Tour piping hot, with GC wins in Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse. However, his lack of Grand Tour leadership experience ensured many commentators wrote him off.
As a co-leader with Geraint Thomas, there were also persistent questions rivalry between the two. It became apparent, however, that both were willing to work for the other and ultimately let the road decide. Decide it did and after 21 stages of one of the most exciting Tours in recent memory, Bernal became the youngest winner since 1909 and the first Colombian to win the race.
A phenomenal battle between the panache of the Frenchman Alaphilippe and the steadfast Ineos riders ensued. After holding the jersey for 14 days, stage 19 saw Alaphilippe lose yellow after being dropped on the Col de l’Iseran. After the stage was cancelled midway due to landslides at the summit of the climb, the time difference was enough for Bernal to take yellow, which he defended the next day, doing enough to be crowned overall victor.