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Egan Bernal wants to race again but he’s in no rush to push his recovery from a devastating crash in January.
Speaking to international media Saturday, the 2019 Tour de France champion recounted new details of his recovery and spoke about his plans for the future.
“I was two months in bed and I didn’t think about getting back on the bike and to where I am right now. It’s thanks to the encouragement from everyone,” he said.
“I don’t know when I might race again. I want to recover as fast as possible, but I have to listen to my body and fully recover before I can think about competition again,” Bernal said. “I am in no rush.”
Bernal slammed into a parked bus during a training ride on his time trial bike in late January at a high rate of speed, leaving him riddled with broken bones that doctors say could have killed him.
After a series of surgeries, Bernal is recovering faster and better than anyone could have expected. He returned to riding a road bike last week for the first time.
Ineos Grenadiers officials have said that there is no pressure on Bernal to return to racing, and that the team is working closely with health officials in Colombia to monitor his physical therapy.
“The team is backing me and they are sending messages of encouragement, and urging me to go slow. They tell me to take all the time I need and that gives me some sense of calm,” he said. “I will do everything I can to return to competition. Just finishing a race again will be very important to me.”
When asked to comment about statements from Chris Froome that time trial bikes are particularly dangerous, Bernal said he was not fully aware of what his former teammate said.
“I don’t know what he said. The time trial bike is one of the aspects of cycling and without it cycling wouldn’t be the same, and I say that knowing that I am not the best ‘chrono man,'” he said.
Bernal said getting back on the bike recently was “the best day of my life.”
“Obviously, cycling is my life, it’s what moves me. It’s what I’ve done all my life and I want to return to do,” he said. “The first thing I thought about was simply being healthy again. Cycling isn’t everything, first family and friends. That lasted about a week.
“Then I started to move my leg and step by step we made some more progress. I was back on my feet thanks to my family and the support I am receiving.”
Bernal said he did not realize the seriousness of his injuries until he woke up from surgery in a Colombian hospital.
“When they put me under, I thought it was to repair the femur and knee, but only later that they recounted everything and I realized it could have cost me my life,” he said.
Bernal also said it’s more of a struggle to walk than it is to ride his bike.
“I am already feeling a lot better. I got back on the bike five or six days ago and I am starting to feel like a cyclist again,” he said. “I want to return to racing. I will be the first to pressure to the team to take me a race. I don’t want to think about if I will be afraid or not. I will go step by step, and only advance when there is no pain.”
Bernal said he is already talking with the team about possibly returning to Europe to continue his recovery, but no firm plans have yet been made.