Egan Bernal: First Colombian to win Tour de France
The 3,480km – Tour de France is one of the most gruelling and toughest cycle races in the world. The 21 day-long stages over the 23-day course race is held annually for men, since it was first organized on the 1st of July 1903. It is interesting to note that the Tour de France was organized to increase the sales of the newspaper L’Auto. The newspaper L’Auto was closed after the Second World War, because it had links with the occupying Germans.
L'Équipe – the new newspaper took over after the closure of L’Auto. It organized the Tour de France till ASO – Amaury Sport Organisation took over as the parent Company. ASO is part of EPA – Éditions Philippe Amaury, the French media group. The 2019 Tour de France is the 106th editions, because during the two World Wars, the race was not held.
Egan Bernal became the first Colombian to win the title of the 2019 Tour de France in the most fascinating style. At the age of just 22, Egan Bernal became the second youngest cyclist to win the coveted title in its 106th editions. The youngest to win the title in the history of 116-year Tour de France was French cyclist Henri Cornet in the year 1904 at 19 years 350 days.
Today, it may amaze many to know that Henri Cornet finished fifth in the 1904 Tour de France. Italian-born French Maurice Garin, who had won the first edition the previous year, along with Lucien Potheir, César Garin, and Hippolyte Aucouturier – the first four finishers were disqualified for cheating to win the race. Ultimatley, Henri Cornet was announced as the ultimate winner of the 1904 Tour de France.
In the past 100 plus years, cheating in the Tour de France reached its ultimate heights when American cyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of all the 7 Tour de France titles in the year 2012 for using performance-enhancing drugs.
2019 Tour de France
On the 6th of July 2019, 176 riders from 22 countries lined up for the 2019 Tour de France in Brussels, Belgium. Dutch rider Mike Teunissen won the first stage of the race to win the Yellow and Green jerseys as the leader of the general and points- classifications respectively. He held on the Yellow jersey in Stage 2. However, in Stage 3 Julian Alaphilippe came in strong with the solo-attack to lead the pack to win the Yellow jersey.
Belgian Dylan Tuens won the Stage 6. However, Italian Giulio Ciccone managed to snatch Alaphilippe’s Yellow jersey. In Stage 8, Alaphilippe snatched the Yellow with teammate Thibault Pinot’s help. By the first rest day after Stage 9, Alaphilippe maintained his lead by 1’12” over Geraint Thomas. Egan Bernal was on the third spot 4” behind teammate Thomas. It is interesting to note that Julian Alaphilippe kept his Yellow jersey in 14 out of the 21 Stages.
It was the significant Stage 19, when everything changed in favour of the bravest Colombian Egan Bernal. He was ranked second overall at the beginning of the Stage. Bernal attached on the approach near the highpoint of the 2,770m high pass. He led the field comprising of compatriot and last year’s Champion Geraint Thomas and Team GC to take a 1-minute lead over the group.
At the beginning of the gruelling stage, Thibault Pinot abandoned the race with a muscle pain in his left quadriceps. He was ranked fifth overall after the Stage 18. It was the biggest blow to the hosting nation, because he was one of the favourites to win the 2019 Tour de France. Riders attacked the treacherous steep and technical descent of the Iseran. It was one of the most astonishing moments of the whole race to make a move so early in the mountain stage.
Egan Bernal was behind Julian Alaphilippe by 1’30” and had to attack the pack to win the Yellow jersey. At the top of Col deL’Iseran, Bernal became the ‘Virtual Leader’ to win the title. Alaphilippe battled hard and reached the top with a 2:02 minute deficit. Disheartened, he knew the 2019 Tour de France was over for him.
The young Colombian earned 8 seconds bonus points after winning the Iseran stage. Stage 20, the penultimate one was reduced to 59.5 km from 130 km due to heavy snow and landslides. Bernal became the third Colombian in history to wear the Yellow jersey. Italian Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 Champion won the penultimate stage. Gerain Thomas and Egan Bernal finished the Stage 20 together celebrating the Colombian’s win.
Egan Bernal just could not fathom that he had won the title. After the Stage 20, he revealed in a most humble manner, “We still have to make it to Paris. I cannot understand, what is happening? I will need a few days -- it's incredible! It will take a few days to realize what I have achieved. To be honest, I was feeling good today. I kept thinking 5km, 4km, 3km, one less, one less to go, each time. When we got to the finish and Geraint held out his hand, I realized it was over and I was going to win the Tour de France.”
As is the Tour de France tradition, the leader is not challenged in the last Stage, which culminates on the 28th of July 2019 in Paris. Ineos teammates Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal – the 2018 and 2019 Tour de France Champions respectively held hands celebrating the superb win as they crossed the finish line amidst loud cheer and celebrations by the crowd.
Thomas Geraint was second overall trailing Egan Bernal by 1' 11". Steven Kruijswijk stood third with a further 20 seconds behind Geraint. With a total of 316 points, Peter Sagan won a record seventh Points Classification ahead of Caleb Ewan’s 248. Romain Bardet won the Mountains Classification with 86 points ahead of Egan Bernal’s 78 points. Beranl also won the Young Rider Classification for Team Ineos clocking 79h 52’52” ahead of David Gaudu. Team Classification was won bywith a total time of 248h 58’ 15” ahead of Team Trek–Segafredo.
It is interesting to note that the 2019 Tour de France is Egan Bernal’s second attempt to become the Champion.
The Journey of Success:
Egan Arley Bernal Gómez was born in Zipaquirá, Colombia on the 13th of January 1997. Father Germán worked at the Salt Cathedral. Mother Flor works as flour factory worker. Egan’s father was a keen amateur cyclist. Little Egan was the eldest in the family. At a tender age of 5, he started riding on a second-hand cycle. His early childhood was spent in Zipaquirá.
Little Egan was a natural and at age 9, he entered in his home town race to win against his father’s wishes. He won the ‘Training Scholarships’ in prize much to his joy. During his early years, Egan excelled in mountain biking. He won races in Brazil, Costa Rica and the US. He won Silver and Bronze medal in 2013 and 2014 respectively in the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships junior cross country events.
In the year 2015, Egan Bernal gained success in Junior Road Racing in Colombia and Italy alongside mountain biking. He won the Clasica JUventudes Cajica and the Sognando Il Giro delle Fiandre titles. His amazing success saw him being signed by Gianni Savio to the Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec team on a four year contract. Egan Bernal started racing in Senior’s category.
In the year 2016, Egan Bernal clinched ‘Top 20 Results’ in the La Méditerranéenne, the GP Industria & Artigianato and Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali and Giro del Trentino before winning the lower level Tour of Bihor. He stood fourth in Tour de Slovenie and the Tour de L'Avenir. In the year 2017, Egan Bernal finished in ‘Top 10’ in the Vuelta a San Juan and the Tour de Langkawi. He finished third overall in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, second in the Giro dell'Appennino, and ninth in the Tour of the Alps.
Egan Bernal professionally won the title in the Sibiu Cycling Tour. He recorded two Stage victories and was the overall Champion. At the Tour de L’Avenir, Egan repeated his superb form winning two Stages and lifting the overall title. In the year 2018, Egan Bernal signed a five year deal with Team Sky. In his Team Sky debut in the Tour Down Under, Egan Bernal won the Young Rider Classification and finished 6th in the overall standings.
In the month of February 2018, Egan Bernal won the Colombian National Time Trial Championships. At the first edition of the Colombia Oro y Paz – Tour Colombia, Egan celebrated his first victory with Team Sky. He won the overall standings with Nairo Quintana finishing second. After his victory, Egan Bernal stated, “It's an important victory for many reasons. It's one of my first races with the Team Sky. It's the first race I have won with the team in Colombia. It's the first 2.1 race in Colombia and I have won it, so it's something special!”
Egan Bernal’s biggest win came in 2018, when he won the Tour of California ahead of Tejay van Garderen. In the 2018 Tour de France, Egan Bernal rode as a domestique for team leaders Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. He has come a long way to become the ultimate 2019 Tour de France Champion.