VeloNews Awards 2018: Egan Bernal, rookie of the year

The latest climbing talent to come out of Colombia, Egan Bernal has already established himself on cycling's biggest stage.

It’s not easy for a promising young rider to live up to the hype. Egan Bernal did that and more in 2018, and is our Rookie of the Year.

The cycling scene has kept a close eye on Bernal for years. An overall win at the 2017 Tour de l’Avenir and rumors of an otherworldly VO2 max gave Bernal legend status before he entered the WorldTour. Sky smartly snatched him up from Androni-Sidermec last off-season.

The Colombian wasted little time in rewarding the British squad.

Bernal bested several marquee names at the Colombia Oro y Paz race in February. A crash at the Vuelta a Catalunya interrupted his season, but he roared back at the Tour de Romandie, winning a stage and finishing second overall. Soon after, he rode into the Amgen Tour of California as a pre-race favorite, with more pressure than most 21-year-olds are accustomed to.

“It’s an opportunity I needed to take advantage of because this isn’t just any team. If they give you chances, you want to do something,” Bernal said prior to California. The Colombian capitalized big time on his big chance, taking two stages and the overall win.

Sky’s initial plan to hold Bernal back in 2018 was scrapped for July. Bernal was the final rider named to Sky’s Tour de France team after pushback from the team’s principal, David Brailsford.

Bernal quickly proved himself to Brailsford. During the battle to l’Alpe d’Huez, Bernal’s pace shredded the front group and kept Sky’s rivals in check. Bernal was often the final lieutenant to stay with Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, and his efforts saw him finish 15th overall.

How did Sky reward its budding star? In October, Brailsford signed him to a five-year contract, unheard of in pro cycling. “A five- year deal in cycling is exceptional,” Brailsford said. “But Egan is an exceptional talent.”