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The era 22-year-old Colombian cyclist begins at the bottom of the Arc de Triomphe. The first Latin American to win the biggest tour begins strongly and with a whole future ahead
EFE | Juan Medina
The communion of Colombian cycling with the Tour de France had been forging years with runners such as Lucho Herrera, Fabio Parra or Nairo Quintana, but it has been a young 22-year-old raised in Zipaquirá (center of the country) who has achieved the first triumph of Colombia in the French round. The era of Egan Bernal begins at the bottom of the Arc de Triomphe.
That a Colombian will win the Tour de France was a chimera until very recently, although many have tried. But the dream has come true thanks to the young Egan Bernal, the brand-new winner of the French round, who at 22 is called to be the new benchmark of world cycling.
"It's my first victory in the Tour de France, I hope there are others," said an exultant Bernal from the top of the podium in Paris, from where he watched the hundreds of compatriots flying the Colombian flags, staining the French capital yellow, more yellow than ever.
Near to the new winner were his parents, Germán and Flor, his brother Ronald, and his girlfriend Xiomara.
The happiness was complete. “It is our first Tour de France. Many editions have been disputed, many Colombians have tried it, they have won many things, many races, but the Tour did not arrive. I think Colombia deserved it,” said the Ineos cyclist.
IN THE MOUNTAINS OF ZIPAQUIRÁ
The triumph of Bernal recalls his hard childhood, raised in Zipaquirá, a town located about 45 kilometers north of Bogotá and a historical, cultural and religious heritage of Colombia. Among his surrounding peaks, young Egan started loving cycling, thanks to his father, security guard, who encouraged him to practice this sport to compensate for the dream he could not fulfill.
In this way, the destiny of Egan Bernal, accompanied by his great qualities for cycling, was to stand out in cycling, following the stage of the great Colombians who marked the way the Tour de France.
The example of Lucho Herrera, Fabio Parra, Santiago Botero or Fernando Gaviria, to name a few, marked his preparation.
Although there have been obstacles in his way. From a very young age, he stood out and won several races, both in road tests and in mountain biking, but at the age of 16, he was about to leave the bicycle to study journalism.
The efforts of one of his coaches prevented the winner of the Tour de France today from writing news or cycling reports.
"He told me that if I was not doing well, he would pay me for journalism studies," Egan recalled.
Fabio Rodríguez, one of his first coaches at the Zipaquirá mountaineering club highlights the characteristics of Bernal and his great professionalism. “When everyone had been in the mud and rain for two hours, he was almost double. Pure work looking for what he wanted."
His participation in the World Championships in Lillehammer (Norway), in 2014, in junior category, where he won the silver medal, caught the attention of the cycling world.
A year later, he was already training in Monaco at sea level under the orders of Italian Gianni Savio, director of the Androni team.
In Europe, the qualities of young Bernal amazed his new coaches. At 18, his values were similar to those of Miguel Induráin and superior to Chris Froome or Alejandro Valverde.
In 2017, after winning the Tour del Porvenir, the name of Egan Bernal already appeared as among the future winners of the Tour de France.
Time has given the reason to those forecasters and the leaders of the powerful Ineos, his current team, formerly called Sky, where he has teamed up with Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, the last winners of the French round.
“I was surprised by two things. That he was not a climber like the others. He knew how to roll, control the effort against the clock and position himself well on the bike. And he was so mature that he just asked to learn,” recalls Dave Brailsford, the strong man of Ineos.
Egan, a Greek name related to the myth of fire, opens a new page in cycling, this time with a Latin American surname, the first to reach the highest step in the history of the Tour de France. At 22, the Bernal era begins strongly and with a lot of future.