Sun, 15 Dec 2019

Shanghai - Tour de France winner Egan Bernal said on Friday that competitive cyclists are only ever one corner from catastrophe, reflecting on Chris Froome's high-speed crash in June.

The four-time Tour champion Froome fractured a thigh, elbow and vertebrae during the Criterium du Dauphine stage race and last week had more surgery.

The 34-year-old has admitted that he is "grateful to be alive".

Bernal, the Briton's team-mate at Ineos, said that one slip-up has the potential to be fatal.

"It's something that you never want to think about when you're on the bike because then it's scary," the 22-year-old Colombian told AFP on the eve of the Tour's criterium in Shanghai.

"But it's something real, it's something real that on any corner, in any downhill or any part of the race, you can crash and die.

"But it's part of our profession. For sure it's a big risk, but it's our job," added Bernal, who suffered a broken collarbone in a crash during training earlier this year.

Froome, who hopes to recover sufficiently to make another tilt at the Tour de France in 2020, returned to competitive cycling three weeks ago.

He took part in a team time trial run round a single lap at the Tour's Saitama Criterium, where Bernal was also involved.

Bernal, the first Colombian to win the Tour de France, cycling's most prestigious race, was buoyed by what he saw from his team-mate.

"I was surprised because he was telling us that he was not really good and in the time trial he will not go too far," said Bernal.

"Then when he started he was going really, really hard and I was a bit surprised because he did surgery just a few months ago and now he is in good shape.

"Not (good enough at the moment) to win the Tour de France, but already in a good form.

"For sure he will be even better next year, I hope."

Bernal said that he will sit down with the Ineos Team in December to map out the year ahead and decide which races to prioritise.

For definite, he will compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and is relishing representing his country.

"It's one of the biggest races in the world and it's only every four years," he said.

"It's important for the country, the people, the Colombians."

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