Cycling Champion Egan Bernal Suffers Catastrophic Crash

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Tour de France and Giro d’Italia champion Egan Bernal sustained extensive injuries in a crash during a training ride in his native Colombia on Monday that threatened one of the most promising careers in professional cycling.

Bernal, 25 years old, was in stable condition following “successful surgery” for a broken femur and patella, a damaged lung and spinal trauma, according to a statement Tuesday morning from Clínica La Sabana, a hospital on the outskirts of Bogotá, the Colombian capital.

The accident occurred on a major highway about 20 miles north of Bogotá where Bernal, a hero in this Andean mountain nation as the first Colombian Tour de France winner, was conducting high-altitude training with his Ineos Grenadiers teammates.

“Doctors were able to medically pin his right leg and stabilize the vertebrae fracture in two separate surgeries last night,” the team said on Tuesday. “He is now in an intensive care unit where other potential secondary injuries are being managed, as well as his body’s response to the trauma.”

On Monday morning, Bernal was hunched over in an aerodynamic position on an ultra-lightweight time-trial bike and didn’t notice that a bus ahead of him had stopped to drop off a passenger, said Col. Juan Castro, assistant director of Colombia’s transit police. Bernal slammed into the back of the bus at about 30 mph, leaving a huge dent in the vehicle and collapsing to the pavement. Team Ineos Grenadiers said he was conscious when he was transported to the hospital.

“He was so focused on his training that he didn’t notice that his teammates were screaming at him,” Col. Castro told reporters.

Bernal announced himself as a potentially era-defining Grand Tour winner in 2019. His easy climbing style and seemingly bottomless lungs made him –at age 22 – the youngest Tour de France champion in more than a century. But back issues hampered his yellow jersey defense in 2020 and he switched his focus last year to the Giro d’Italia, pro cycling’s second most important stage race, which he won with soaring performances in the Apennines and Alps.

“It’s difficult to realize what I’ve done,” he said in Milan after lifting the trophy. “I have no words after what happened in these two years.”

Egan Bernal won the 2021 Giro d’Italia.


Photo:

luca bettini / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Bernal is the second recent Tour winner to suffer major injuries in a crash, following four-time champion Chris Froome, who broke his hip, femur, elbow and sternum while blowing his nose on a high-speed descent in 2019. Froome spent the better of a year working back from his injuries and returned in 2020 with Ineos. But he has been a shadow of his dominant former self since then. Now racing for Team Israel-Premier Tech, the 36-year-old Froome is not considered a threat to win a major stage race again.

Bernal’s horrific crash underscored the dangers cyclists at all levels face in Colombia. Last year, 471 cyclists were killed on roads and highways. Many roads are narrow, lack shoulders and are full of potholes, and there are few designated bus stops. Bus drivers often stop suddenly to drop off and pick up passengers, which is what happened Monday when Bernal crashed, according to the police.

The incident headlined Colombian newspapers on Tuesday and sparked an outpouring of messages from fans, including President Iván Duque.

“For our beloved champion we are hoping for a fast recovery,” he tweeted“So he can continue to reap more triumphs for Colombia.”

Write to Joshua Robinson at Joshua.Robinson@wsj.com

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Appeared in the January 26, 2022, print edition as ‘Cycling Star Bernal Injured In Crash.’

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