Hoy backs 'fierce competitor' Bernal to make comeback

By Sports Desk March 22, 2022

Chris Hoy believes "fierce competitor" Egan Bernal can return to full strength despite the injuries he suffered in a horror crash earlier this year.

Bernal, who won the Tour de France in 2019 and the Giro d'Italia in 2021, was treated in intensive care following the accident in Colombia in January.

The 25-year-old underwent multiple operations after sustaining a fractured vertebra, a fractured right femur, a fractured right patella, chest trauma, a punctured lung and several fractured ribs.

Bernal subsequently revealed in a social media post that there was a "95 per cent chance" of him being paralysed or losing his life.

However, after leaving hospital, Bernal is now on the road to recovery and this month shared a photo of him training on a static bike at home.

Hoy, speaking to Stats Perform to mark 500 days until the start of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, said he is hoping Bernal will be back competing at the highest level after a long road to recovery.

"I guess it's always hard to tell just how bad an injury or how bad mentally a big crash can affect athletes and with social media, you're always trying to portray the best possible side and the positive side all the time," said Hoy, who is one of Great Britain's most successful Olympians with six gold medals.

"But there is no doubt that no matter how well he's doing now, it will have been a huge struggle to get past the physical injuries and the psychological scars as well from such a horrible accident.

"He is a fierce competitor, all the other team-mates who know him say that if anyone can, he can, and I think the cycling community is hoping that he will get back to his very best and be able to compete on the biggest stage. But, you know, it's not a small challenge that he's facing, but we'll have to wait and see."

Four-time Tour de France winner and Bernal's former INEOS Grenadiers team-mate Chris Froome also suffered a horrendous crash in 2019, which put him out of action for almost a year.

Froome was 34 when that accident occurred, and Hoy says Bernal at least has age on his side.

"I think Bernal’s age will help, that the chances on getting back and competing at the highest level, are definitely improved by the fact that he is still relatively young," Hoy said.

"But until you get back into that real cauldron of competition you just don't know what it's going to be like and I guess the longer you're away from competing, the more that fire burns and the more you want to get back and taste that victory again."

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    Bernal said: "After what happened to me in January this has been the moment I've been waiting for – to race with my team-mates again.

    "I can't emphasise enough how hard the last eight months have been for me, both physically and mentally. That day, and the journey that I have been on since will be a part of me forever, it's something you never forget, as is the support that I have received from my family, my girlfriend, the team, INEOS as well as my fans.

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    "That support has been invaluable in motivating me every day to work hard to be able to race again. To you all, a heartfelt thank you."

    Deputy team principal, Rod Ellingworth, added: "When you think back to where Egan was only eight months ago, it's incredible the progress he has made.

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