Egan Bernal says that staying relaxed and just trying to enjoy the racing helped him win this year’s Tour de France. “All I could do was my best,” he reasoned in an apparently successful effort to dissipate external pressures.
Bernal became the first Colombian winner of the Tour de France and Team Ineos’s seventh winner in eight years after edging out team-mate and last year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, by 1m11s.
"Maybe the key to winning the Tour is just trying to enjoy it,” he said. “During the Tour, the media talk about pressure, pressure, pressure, but if I'd started to think about that, maybe I wouldn't have ridden the same. Maybe when I had a bad day or didn't have the best feeling, I would have started to think about the pressure.
"But throughout the Tour I knew I had prepared in the best way I could. What could I do then? Just enjoy it and ride as fast as I could. I couldn’t control what the other guys would do or how they would ride, so all I could do was my best.
“I knew I would do my best so I would have been happy with any result – either winning the Tour or helping G win the Tour. In the end I just knew I needed to go full gas, enjoy the race, and stay calm."
While training for the Giro d’Italia earlier in the year, Bernal crashed and broke his collarbone.
"It wasn't difficult to stay motivated after missing the Giro," he said. "Mostly I was sad for my teammates, who had trained so hard to help me at the Giro. That was my first thought.
“But when I crashed I was in really good form and I said, ‘okay.’ I knew I didn’t have much time to prepare for the Tour and I was starting with really good form. For the time I was off the bike I tried to stay focused with my routine. It worked."
Bernal was guided by coach Xabi Artetxe, who has looked after the 22-year-old since he joined what was then Team Sky at the start of last season.
“He is like my Dad in the team,” said Bernal, “so when I’m doing things really well he will praise me, but when I'm not, he will say: 'Hey you are not doing really well, you need to do this and this.'"
He added: “At any moment if I had a doubt about my preparation or was not sure about winning the Tour, he was calm. For example when I was fifth he was saying to me: ‘You are just 30 seconds from winning the Tour.’”
Nevertheless, Bernal said it was only after stage 19, when he took the yellow jersey, that he thought he could win, “because when you take the yellow it gives you some extra powers; it is more difficult to lose it.”