Egan Bernal are a thousand faces and a single body, a single heart. A thousand cyclists and a head, lucid and intelligent. And a pink jersey from the Giro d’Italia that seems difficult for him not to arrive on his body to the finish line in Milan on Sunday afternoon.
After the drink of Alpe di Mera, with two days to go – three mountains in the heights that he likes, more than 2,000m, and a 30-kilometer time trial – the only Colombian who has won the Tour has an advantage in the general in 2m 25s to the second, the Sicilian Damiano Caruso, who clings, who clings, and in 2m 49s, to the third, Simon Yates who whenever he attacks hurts the Colombian and who reached one of his objectives on Friday, to win a stage.
Flies Simon Yates, gaseous as a manhole, the harrier of Bury, Manchester, and United, in the sunny mountains and cattle pastures, the cowboy cabins, over Trento, on Wednesday, and Bernal, the impulsive teenager who refuses to falling behind, he jumps on the wheel wanting to bite him and ends up busted in two strokes. Strikes again on Friday Yates, the expected, on the mountain that shades the placid waters of Lake Maggiore, where the sailboats, the postcard landscapes and the palaces of aristocrats of the past, the new rich of now, and Egan, the Egan himself, the wonder child of Zipaquirá who has not yet turned 25, does not flinch. Is another one. He is no longer the cyclist who doubts because they make him doubt, and his body hurts, which erases the unknowns that afflict him by winning happily at Campo Felice de los Abruzzo. He is no longer the youthful boy who has fun doing fans in the mountains on a rainy and cold day on the way to Ascoli Piceno in the company of his favorite bear, the giant Pippo Ganna, as cuddly as he is tough. He is no longer the child who has fun on the bicycle picking himself with colleagues, with the other boy in the peloton then, with Remco Evenepoel, who he disputes a steering wheel as if his life depended on it.
Nor is he the sentimental Egan, a la Julian Alaphilippe, who loses several seconds on the day of his best triumph, in the luxurious and Olympic Cortina d’Ampezzo, because he wants to look handsome in the victory photo, he wants to go out in pink because he has never won with the leader’s jersey, and for that he has to take off the black winter raincoat that has warmed him up on the freezing ascent of Giau (and that day, last Monday, between the fog and sleet at more than 2,000m that he hates , Yates, the Englishman who loves the sun, loses 2m 47s and loses the Giro).
It is no longer even the pure emotion, the rage, the devouring appetite to eat the memories of a sad year, and it is Bernard Hinault in Montalcino, aggressive, destructive, romantic: you have to destroy in order to build.
He is nothing of the sort and is, perhaps, more Egan than ever, more of a cyclist. “Maybe I did the Giro in reverse,” he says. “My idea was to start weak, even lose time, to end up winning it. And almost without meaning to, the adrenaline, the emotion, I started attacking and now I’m defending ”. Egan is, already so close to Milan, Miguel Indurain, the impassive. Cold, calculating, allergic to emotions. It has been since the hit he received on Wednesday. On Thursday he ate very well, recharged carbohydrates. He complied with all the recovery protocols to the millimeter, as the Indurain in the hot Tour only drank water of the time, so that his throat did not get cold, and he was always in long sleeves, so that the air conditioners did not catch him cold.
Yates flies in search of stage victory, at least, and Egan does not watch but listens. He speaks to him through the earpiece Jonathan Castroviejo, his faithful route captain, the cyclist who accompanied Nairo in his victories in the Giro and in the Vuelta, the same one who accompanied and guided Egan on his victorious Tour, and with him he continues on the Turn. “It has not been so easy not to react to Yates’ attack,” explains the leader of the Giro, “but I have a teammate with as much experience as Castroviejo who told me to be calm, that he set the pace, not to be disturbed, not to I would be wrong like in the Sega di Ala, when I exploded jumping Yates, not to be scared, Yates would quickly take 20s, 30s ahead, but he would not go any further. There it will stabilize. And as yachts it is stronger than I could not do otherwise ”.
There are just over six kilometers of ascent. Seven from the end, Almeida had attacked, the Portuguese who will not stop until he wins a stage, even if it is the time trial. Five hundred meters later Yates jumped, as hot as ever, so easy, with the pedaling so light that it seems that it does not cost, and in a kilometer he already took 20s to Egan, who, protected by Castroviejo, withstands the storm, and the movements of everyone around him, Carthy, Vlasov, Caruso who wants to protect his second place. Two kilometers later, Yates reaches the expected 30s. Castroviejo leaves his post to Dani Martínez, whom Egan quickly sets aside for himself, in bright pink, to go after Yates. And for a moment it seems that the freezing Egan will melt and succumb to desire, to emotion, to the desire to turn the end into a duel, to catch up with Yates and win the stage himself. “But no, but no. I thought, I thought. I raised my foot a little. I did not want to go full, “says the Colombian. “I calculated: better to lose 30s today than to go to Sunday’s time trial with less strength.”
Egan speaks like a suspicious winner. Yates speaks like a defeated finish. “Uff, Egan takes me a long time to think about winning the Giro,” says the Englishman who won the 18 Vuelta after losing to Froome a Giro that he dominated in a big way, with 13 days of pink and three stage victories. “Maybe finishing second and winning a stage is everything I can hope for.” And, of course, nobody trusts. All champions have a thousand faces.