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What’s the best way to learn how to win the Tour de France? Pay close attention to the guy who’s won it four times.
“I learned the most from Froome,” Bernal said on the team’s website. “I was always looking at what he did. I learned a lot from him.”
Bernal was one of the biggest sensations of 2018, more than delivering on the hype that he could emerge as one of the top grand tour riders of the next generation.
Overall victories at the Amgen Tour of California and the Colombia Oro y Paz race, coupled with second at the Tour de Romandie, opened the door for a surprise starting spot at the reduced, eight-man roster at Team Sky. With Froome and eventual winner Geraint Thomas taking up two spots, the fact that Sky brass chose the untested Bernal for one of the remaining six support roles reveals a lot about how much confidence the team has in the young Colombian.
It was the chance of a lifetime to make his grand tour debut at the Tour with Team Sky, and the 21-year-old was smart enough to pay close attention. Bernal said he shadowed Froome throughout the race to see what it takes to chase the yellow jersey.
“I was next to him on the bus, and I was always watching him,” Bernal said. “At how he takes notes, how he talks in the meetings, and I was always behind him in the peloton. It was really good.”
Bernal is now poised to apply those lessons in 2019. Though the team’s future beyond this season remains uncertain, Bernal is taking a central role in the calendar.
Team Sky confirmed Bernal would lead team colors at the Giro d’Italia in May. For Bernal, who raced two seasons with Gianni Savio in the second-division Italian team, it’s a natural progression to aim for the pink jersey.
“The most important race I’ll do will be the Giro,” Bernal said. “I really like the Italian fans and I know the roads, so I really like the Giro and I want to do a good race there.”
Bernal’s confirmation in 2018 only heightens expectations for the Giro, which will see a stellar lineup that includes former winners Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), plus a host of would-be contenders — including Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Miguel Ángel López (Astana), and Mikel Landa (Movistar).
“I didn’t expect to have the season like I did,” Bernal said. “When I arrived here, at the best team in the world, I didn’t expect to go to the Tour or to win in California. I thought I would just learn and no more.”
Learn he did. And he’s looking to apply those lessons to the Giro and beyond in 2019.