Egan Bernal on WorldTour podium for first time since 2021 at Volta a Catalunya

BERGA SPAIN MARCH 23 Egan Bernal of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers prior to the 103rd Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2024 Stage 6 a 1547km stage from Berga to Queralt UCIWT on March 23 2024 in Berga Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers was all smiles prior to the start of stage 7 at Volta a Catalunya, and finished on the GC podium in third (Image credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)

“Above all, I’m happy with the progression I’ve made,” was Egan Bernal’s simple but heartfelt explanation of how it felt to take a landmark WorldTour podium finish at the Volta a Catalunya. The Ineos Grenadiers rider finished third overall Sunday behind an all-conquering Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and a resurgent Mikel Landa (Soudal-QuickStep).

It was Bernal’s top performance in a WorldTour race since his life-threatening accident in early 2022 and his first GC podium since winning the Giro d’Italia outright in 2021. It was also his first in a week-long WorldTour stage race since winning the Tour de Suisse way back in 2019.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, but in one of the toughest editions of the Volta a Catalunya, Bernal impressed with top 10 finishes in the opening two Pyrenean stages, then improved on that consistency with a second place at the Alt de Queralt, moving six places in the overall in one fell swoop.

The Ineos Grenadiers racer and former Tour de France winner followed that with an equally tenacious performance in the final, very technical and hilly Montjuic stage - one in which he had the misfortune to crash out while looking to be en route to a final top-three placing back in his earliest days as a pro in 2018.

This time Bernal came through without difficulty, responding well to the intense ebb and flow of attacks on the multiple assaults, and could come home with his third place intact, the same result he took in Catalunya back in 2019 behind Miguel Ángel López and Adam Yates.

“I’m very calm and above all happy with the progression I’ve made,” Bernal told Cadena Ser radio station after the finish in Montjuic and where hundreds of Colombian fans chanted his name again and again on the other side of the barriers when he then made his way to the team bus.

“It’s not easy on a physical or a mental level, after being at the height of world cycling, to go to not even being able to finish races.

“That was very hard, but with support from everybody, my family and friends and my team, I could get back to being on a good road, and I hope one day to get the level of before, too.”

Bernal brushed off a question about what it felt like to race against another Tour winner, Pogačar, at a point where the Slovenian star looked to be at the height of his powers. Rather, he insisted, he was setting his own goals - and achieving them.

“My idea was to get on the podium and at this moment in time, I know I’m not at my best level. So my idea was not even to try to follow him,” Bernal said, referring to Pogačar’s multiple attacks.

“I’m happy with the podium and my time may come when the forces are more maybe a bit more equal.”

By way, of example he pointed to the Tour de France, saying, “There’s going to be a big battle there, lots of people will be at a very high level, and there things will be a bit clearer.”

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