He is back.
Colombian Egan Bernal, winner of the 2019 Tour de France, makes his comeback to competition at the Tour of Denmark on Tuesday, almost seven months after his serious accident in training.
“After a final assessment over the weekend, the INEOS Grenadiers medical team has cleared the Colombian to return to competition,” his team, British outfit Ineos, said in a statement.
“Almost lost his life”
On January 24, the South American crashed head-on into a training bus in Colombia.
He had been operated on several times for a multitude of fractures (femur, patella, vertebrae).
"I had a 95% chance of being paraplegic and almost lost my life," he said.
"After what happened to me in January, this is the moment I've been waiting for - to run again with my teammates", rejoiced the Andean runner, quoted in the press release.
"I can't stress enough how tough the past eight months have been for me, both physically and mentally.
That day and my journey since will be part of me forever, it's something you never forget.
A huge challenge
The first Colombian winner of the Tour had not raced since his sixth place at the Vuelta last year.
Without his accident, he would have had to return to the Tour de France this season, two years after his failure in the Grand Colombier and his inglorious retirement in the 2020 edition. In 2021, he had stalled to focus on the Giro , that he was going to win for the first time, and regain his confidence.
The challenge is immense for Bernal.
After a violent fall with similar consequences (fractures of a femur, an elbow, a hip, a vertebra) in 2019, Christopher Froome never again found the level which had allowed him to win four Tours .
It is true that the Briton was at that time ten years older than the Colombian today.
Vingegaard absent at home
The Tour of Denmark with its rather flat course, from Tuesday to Sunday, will be a crucial stage in Bernal's fight to find the top level.
He had brought the previous ones to life for his fans by sharing images on his social networks where he was seen in his hospital bed, then back at home, then on an exercise bike, etc.
For the local sports channel Antena 2, this return is "the most awaited news" by Colombia.
Deprived of its local hero Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the last Grande Boucle, the Danish event has found a new headliner with the 25-year-old climber, even if he will obviously not be aiming for victory.
Two of his teammates, the Polish Michal Kwiatkowski, world champion in 2014, and the Briton Geraint Thomas, winner of the Tour de France 2018, are on the other hand among the candidates for the succession of the Belgian Remco Evenepoel, with the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and the French Christophe Laporte.
The competition starts Tuesday from Allerod, north of Copenhagen, for five stages and a total of 767.3 km before the finish in Vejle (west).