Return to San Juan: Remco Evenepoel and Egan Bernal return to their old ways in Argentina | Sports

Egan Bernal, in the presentation of the race.
Egan Bernal, in the presentation of the race.sprintcycling

Perhaps there will not be more conscious athletes cyclists, when they retire, that their life, like everyone else’s, consists of nothing more than pedaling on rollers, an illusion, the wheel turns, where they think they are moving forward and when they get off the bike they discover that they have reached nowhere, and only their memory remains, if they keep it, to prove that they have lived, and old friends, to escape despair. The south wind, and the summer sun, 38 degrees in the shade, the sandstorm that clouds the mountains in San Juan, there, in no man’s land, 1,200 kilometers from Buenos Aires, a mirage next to the mountains, a race born from the whim of a governor, without tradition, without history, does not obscure but gives meaning to the cycling lives of Egan Bernal and Remco Evenepoel, still young, 26 and 23 years old, respectively, still convinced that cycling will take them far , still far from the cloudy memory of old fans, still eager to face each other, to measure themselves, a couple of years after an initiatory Giro, that of 2021, which Egan finished in pink and Remco, abandoned and sad.

The two of them, the superb Belgian cyclist dressed in rainbows and his air of a Hollywood star, and his press officer, a bad bodyguard, wounded and in pain trying to stop a useless avalanche of fans, and the wonderful Colombian from Zipaquirá, and his new nose , so apparent, have matured marked by a fall, an accident, a pelvic, hip, or femur fracture. Remco suffered it at the age of 21, before winning in Liège, winning the Tour, winning the World Cup, always alone, always competing against himself, alone. Egan suffered it later, a year ago on Tuesday, January 24, after winning his Tour of 19, at the age of 22, after winning his Giro. Their vital vicissitudes bring them together, hungry, impatient to show that the will will always be above destiny, in a race that would not make sense without them, the Vuelta a San Juan, six sprint stages, one in the mountains, from Sunday 22 to Sunday 29 (Eurosport).

When they crossed paths in the Giro del 21, Egan was god; Remco, such a child, an aspirant, the chosen one. There was doubt about his recovery after the fall in Lombardy, just as there is now doubt about the Colombian’s ability to once again be the best climber in the world. Now, in a five-star hotel, swimming pool and land under the scorching sun, Remco, always so young, speaks like a veteran. “We have seen each other in the hotel buffet and we have spoken for five minutes,” says the Belgian, who has become an example, a demonstration for Egan that it is possible to return, and he laughs, because he finds it funny, and he believes it, that In Argentina they call him “the Messi of cycling”, because he, like Leo, is a world champion, and since Leo was also a footballer, he played for Anderlecht and cut his hair like Lucas Biglia, an Argentine star in Belgium in his early years. . “I had time to tell Egan that I was glad to see him back and he, pure ambition, warned me not to trust me, that he wants to be the Bernal of 2019 again, when he won the Tour. And I have told him that I hoped and wanted that, that he wanted to face him in the great tours ”.

It will not be this 2023 when they see each other and challenge each other beyond small races. Remco, after winning the Vuelta, will compete in the Giro, and Egan only thinks about the Tour, telling Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar not to think they are alone at the top, that he is going to beat them. “I’m super excited to get back on the Tour, the race that is everything,” he says. “The ambition I go with will depend on how I am as I get closer, but for now everything is looking very good. The most important race of my life is to come back”. And that ambition, that desire, say his people, his bosses at Ineos, is the only engine that has driven him the past 12 months since January 24, 2022, when he crashed his time trial bike at 60 per hour against the back of a bus stopped on the freeway. Multiple broken bones, various operations, re-education, a child learning to walk, to brush his teeth, to be autonomous again, to always be champion, even with irons in the body.

To overcome fear, not to ask yourself more times what sense to risk on a bike when those who love you were waiting for you at home. “And when I ran in the peloton again, last September, I was scared, yes. When I was going 60 an hour, the speed at which I hit the bus, it scared me, but not anymore,” she says. “I was born to be a cyclist. I can’t imagine life without a bicycle”.

And to be like Remco, of course, who returned, and not like Chris Froome, who was not the best again after another terrifying fall. “The way Remco has come back, how he’s won again, how he’s overcome the pressure of being compared to Eddy Merckx, it shows how great he is,” he says. “He is an inspiration not only for me, but also for all people.”

Remco won the Vuelta a San Juan in 2020, just turned 20 – he was born on January 25; Egan was born again on January 24–, a race that stopped being held for a couple of years due to the pandemic. “And so many things have happened in these three years, he suffered the fall, several months went by without knowing if he would run again,” says the Belgian. “Everything changed me and made me a new cyclist, a new person.” Egan also feels like a new person after, he says, the year of his life in which he has learned the most. He says it, his people say it, who hear him speak and think that it is not a youngster who is speaking, but someone at least 30 years old, and those who look at him and see him so changed, his new nose, his new face, a recent operation to relieve a nasal obstruction, which, carried out by Dr. Gustavo Miery, also turned into cosmetic surgery, and his friend Óscar Sevilla, the Ossa de Montiel runner who, at 45, and Already 12 living in Bogotá, he is still one of the best in the Colombian squad, he laughs and tells that it was he who recommended it to him and who is now teasing him because, says Sevilla, Egan has become a gummyThat insufferable accent, which is what they call posh people in Bogotá, and also the new Egan, so strong. “Hahaha, this is Óscar”, laughs Egan, who looks more handsome, he says, when he looks in the mirror in the morning, and recognizes himself, and likes himself, the new Egan, sprung from the usual Egan.

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