MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Former Tour de France champion Egan Bernal is returning to cycling’s biggest race for the first time since his life-threatening crash at the start of last year.
The 26-year-old Colombian climber was selected Monday in the eight-man Ineos Grenadiers squad that will compete at the three-week Tour, which starts Saturday in Bilbao, Spain.
Bernal, who won the 2019 Tour, said he was very close to becoming paralyzed after an accident involving a bus in January 2022 in Colombia during training. Bernal said he had a “95% chance of ending quadriplegic” after the accident.
“Making my return to the Tour has always been a major goal for me. I’m so excited to be able to experience every kilometer of this race again,” Bernal said in comments provided by his team.
“I’m sure many people have followed everything that has happened to me since my accident in January last year, and the journey I’ve been through to overcome the greatest test of my life. Being a part of this year’s Tour team reassures me that I’m on my way to returning to my best.”
Accompanying Bernal next month will be Jonathan Castroviejo, Omar Fraile, Michal Kwiatkowski, Daniel Martinez, Tom Pidcock, Carlos Rodriguez and Ben Turner.
Rod Ellingworth, the deputy team principal, said Ineos Grenadiers is “really thrilled for Egan, and everyone who’s supported him in his return to full fitness.”
Bernal, who also won the 2021 Giro d’Italia, signaled his return to form with a 12th-place finish at the Criterium du Dauphine, a tough stage race serving as a rehearsal for the Tour.
“His grit and determination sum up what we’re all about as a team, and all our riders will benefit from his experience at the Tour,” Ellingworth said.