Explainer: How did Egan Bernal crash in Colombia?

Updated: Police confirm the 2019 Tour de France champion was riding in a time trial position when he slammed into the back of stopped inter-city bus.

Photo: DANIEL MUNOZ/AFP via Getty Images

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Egan Bernal is in an ICU hospital bed in Colombia in the wake of a horrific, high-speed collision with a bus while on a training ride Monday.

Two surgeries overnight saw doctors treat the 2019 Tour de France champion for a long list of injuries that reveals the seriousness of the crash for the 25-year-old star.

Bernal is conscious and showing mobility in all four limbs, doctors confirmed Wednesday.

That’s good news in the aftermath of a crash for the popular Colombian cycling ambassador. The entire cycling community is hoping for the best.

Updated January 27: Colombian doctors confirmed a “favorable evolution” in the wake of two surgeries. Police interviews also confirm that Bernal was riding in a tucked position on his time trial bike, and he did not react to warning cries from teammates moments before the impact (see more below).

Updated January 26: Colombian police opened an official inquiry into the events surrounding Bernal’s crash Monday, media reports indicated.

Colombian television Red+ reported that local authorities interviewed several eyewitnesses to the crash, including the 55-year-old driver of the bus that Bernal struck.

According to Juan Castro, a member of the local transit police, said Bernal was riding “so concentrated” he did not “perceive the screams” from his teammates warning him of the bus, the report said.

So how did the horrible crash happen?

According to media accounts, police reports, and photographs on social media, it’s possible to reconstruct a version of events that led up the impact and aftermath.

Here’s what’s known:

On Monday morning, Bernal joined a handful of his Ineos Grenadiers teammates on a training ride on a busy, divided highway running between Bogotá and Bernal’s hometown of Zipaquirá.

Bernal was training in Colombia ahead of his planned season debut at the Tour de la Provence and later a hyped up face-off against Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) at the UAE Tour in February.

Bernal was healthy and confident ahead of what he hoped would be a return to the Tour in 2022.

After nursing through nagging back problems that torpedoed his hopes of a title defense at the 2020 Tour, Bernal bounced back to win the Giro d’Italia last year. He joined several Ineos Grenadiers teammates to train and prepare at altitude.

Also read: Close call for Bernal and teammates in Colombia

Training on Colombian roads, just like any place with high-traffic volumes, can be dangerous. Just days before, Bernal and his teammates saw a near-miss when an oncoming car crossed the double line to pass just meters ahead of a group of Ineos riders.

A fan captured video of a close call in Colombia for Egan Bernal and teammates. (Photo: Instagram)

On Monday, Bernal and teammates were riding near Gachancipá, about 30km north of Bogotá, when the crash happened at about 10 a.m., according to police reports.

The roadway at the point of the crash appeared to be straight, with relatively wide shoulders, and good surfaces.

So far, none of the riders joining Bernal have spoken in detail about what happened.

A Colombian police report reveals important details of the crash. Published in various Colombia media outlets, the report describes that an inter-city bus stopped for passengers ahead Bernal and the other cyclists.

“The vehicles were traveling between Tunja-Bogotá, when a bus stopped to leave a passenger and the [cyclist], who was traveling in the same direction and in the same lane, did not observe the movement made by the bus, and hit the back of the bus,” a police report read.

Photographs on social media revealed the abruptness of the impact.

Bernal slammed into the back of the bus, leaving a large imprint on the tail of the vehicle, suggesting a high-speed impact.

More details are emerging of what happened.

According to the police report, the bus stopped on the roadway for passengers, and Bernal did not react in time to safely stop or steer around the bus. According to media reports in Colombia, so far the police are not putting any blame on the bus driver, and said the driver’s maneuver to stop the bus was not illegal.

It’s not clear how fast Bernal was going, but it appears he was the only Ineos rider affected by the crash.

There are no reports of other injured riders, and videos and photographs in the aftermath of the impact do not reveal any other riders on the ground or to have been involved in a crash.

It appears a team staffer was following, either in a team car or a scooter. The team reported that a staffer was immediately on hand at the scene of the incident.

Some in Colombia have wondered why Bernal did not have a complete training escort, with a follow car as well as a lead car, to create a safe space for the riders to train.

It’s rare, however, for teams to have two vehicles join riders on training rides. Most top pros train in small groups without any support vehicle at all. In fact, Tom Dumoulin of Jumbo-Visma was spotted in Colombia riding with a teammate on the open roads.

Following a short media note Monday, Ineos Grenadiers officials later confirmed details of Bernal’s injuries in a press note Tuesday.

What was obvious is that Bernal was unable to brake or steer wide, and slammed against the back of the bus.

Bernal was quickly attended to by medical personnel. Ambulances arrived relatively quick to the scene, and Bernal — who was confirmed to be conscious — was transported to a local hospital.

Speaking to MARCA, Ineos Grenadiers sport director Xabi Zandio, who was not at the crash but was in touch with team personnel, confirmed a team doctor was present with Bernal.

“It was a hard impact,” Zandio told MARCA. “The bus was made of fiber and it wasn’t metal, so that helped absorb some of the impact.”

Updated: Police confirmed Bernal was riding on his time trial bike.

Sources close to Bernal and witnesses said he was training that day on the time trial bike, though it is not entirely clear based on videos and photographs taken on the scene.

Police interviewed witnesses and confirmed Bernal was riding in a tucked position with other teammates near him. Police said Bernal was riding in a tucked position, and did not react in time to warning cries from his trailing teammates.

Speaking to Colombia radio, ex-pro Santiago Botero, who also crashed this week in an unrelated incident, said he spoke with people familiar with the crash.

“I was talking people close to the incident, and the issue is that he was distracted, so much so that a bus overtook him and passengers managed to get off, ” Botero told Blu Radio. “Also, two other riders were ahead of him, so he wasn’t alone. He did not see, and struck at 40-45kph. The worst thing a cyclist can do is hit against a static object.”

Also read: Egan Bernal hones TT position ahead of Tour de France return

Over the winter, Bernal conducted a series of time trial training sessions in Europe, and continued to train against the clock to improve his performance in the decisive discipline.

Police also confirmed that Bernal was in an “aerodynamic position” with his head “tucked down,” according to a police report published in Colombian media. Bernal struck the bus at a relatively high rate of speed.

Colombian television Red+ reported that local authorities interviewed several eyewitnesses to the crash, including the 55-year-old driver of the bus that Bernal struck.

According to Juan Castro, a member of the local transit police, said Bernal was riding “so concentrated” he did not “perceive the screams” from his teammates warning him of the bus, the report said.

An ambulance arrived, and Bernal was eventually transported to the Clínica de La Sabana, in Chía on the northern suburbs of Bogotá.

Police officers are seen at the main entrance of the 'Clinica Universitaria La Sabana', where former tour of france winner Egan Bernal is hospitalised, in Chia, north of Bogota, on January 24, 2022. - Former Tour de France winner Egan Bernal was "conscious" and "stable" in hospital following a training accident near his home town in Colombia, his cycling team Ineos Grenadiers said on Monday. (Photo by DANIEL MUNOZ / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL MUNOZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Cycling fans are hopeful Egan Bernal fully recovers from his injuries. (Photo: DANIEL MUNOZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Medical officials released a series of press statements Monday and Tuesday outlining the seriousness of Bernal’s injuries.

As of Wednesday, Bernal underwent two surgeries, and was expected to remain in the ICU for at least another 24 hours, with one doctor speaking on Colombian TV adding, “If he’s back on the bike within a year it will be a miracle.”

Doctors confirmed Wednesday that Bernal was conscious and had “mobility in all four limbs,” some good news after a rather grim series of events.

Check back to VeloNews for more details on this developing story.

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