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Due to the cancelation of last week’s Colombia Tour 2.1, we have a host of features, interviews, photo galleries, and other stories to celebrate Colombian cycling as part of “Colombia Week.”
But after a scintillating show this weekend on the slopes of Mont Ventoux this weekend, has the 23-year-old proven he’s ready to step out of the shadows of his friend, compatriot, and long-time teammate?
Sosa has followed a similar path to Bernal for some five years as the duo flew from their lofty Colombian homes to their European race debuts and eventual moves to Ineos Grenadiers. Bernal has consistently played the guide, mentor and forebear in the relationship, always a half wheel ahead of Sosa, one year his junior.
The roles finally reversed at the Tour de la Provence on Saturday.
Having been handed team leadership at the start of the Provence tour, Sosa stepped from Bernal’s shadow on the leg-breaking climb to Chalet Reynard to score a dominant victory. Bernal claimed second having marked the moves as his teammate disappeared into the mist en route to the result that formed the foundation of his overall title.
“This is a victory which I will remember, I secured it in front of riders of an excellent level,” Sosa said Sunday. “It gives me a lot of confidence for the future.”
With Bernal still nursing the lasting vestiges of his nagging back injury, Sosa took his opportunity to show that his future lay beyond playing apprentice having traced his Tour-winning compatriot through their senior years.
From Colombia to Ineos Grenadiers via Italy
The pair’s paths first aligned at Italian ProTeam Androni-Sidermec.
Bernal was plucked from Colombia by agent Paolo Alberati to join Gianni Savio’s stalwart squad in 2016. Alberati also sent Sosa to Europe, joining Sidermec in 2017. The two went on to share wheels at the Italian outfit for a season that saw the elder land a handful of victories in lower-tier European races. Sosa took the back-seat behind his countryman through the year, including when Bernal rode to a breakout win at the Tour de l’Avenir when riding in his national colors.
“Ivan Sosa reminds me of the tale of the ugly duckling,” Androni-Sidermec sport director Giovanni Ellena told TuttoBici at the time. “He trained with Egan, formed a group with him and other young Piedmontese riders, but in the races, he spent himself completely for Bernal.”
One year later in 2018, Italian super-agent Giuseppe Acquadro booked Bernal into a contract with Team Sky. Sosa duly followed the next season as Acquadro repeated his magic.
When reunited at Team Sky in 2019, Bernal took his junior under his wing.
“He is really close to Egan – they know each other really, really well – and that will help him,” Team Sky race coach Xabier Artetxe said at the time of signing then-21-year-old Sosa. “Egan is a great example for Sosa. He will help him settle into Team Sky and help him continue to make improvements as a young rider with huge potential.”
Sosa resumed his well-rehearsed role of domestique in his rookie season. He supported Bernal through several early-season races as his friend laid the foundations for his ride to the yellow jersey, and again played wingman through the Italian classics in autumn, where he set Bernal up for the victory as the pair went one-two at the Gran Piemonte.
Sosa’s unstoppable victory on the slopes of the Ventoux made for an eery reversal of the Gran Piemonte playbook and raises the question of what comes next in his young career.
Where will he get his opportunities?
The 23-year-old didn’t waste his rare opportunity to step out from behind Bernal as he rode to GC victory in France last week. Will he get a similar opportunity in 2021? Riding on an Ineos Grenadiers squad packing four grand tour winners and established stage racing stars such as Adam Yates, Richie Porte and fellow Colombian Dani Martínez, it’s hard to see where.
Sosa’s provisional schedule has him penciled into the Giro d’Italia line up to once again support Bernal and co-leaders Martinez and Pavel Sivakov.
With Bernal signed through 2023 and Sosa in a contract year at Ineos Grenadiers, the pair may not be riding together much longer at all, and the chances for Sosa to repeat the Provence dynamic will be limited. His best shot at stepping from his senior’s shadow again this year may be relegated to smaller races such as the Vuelta a Burgos, which he has twice won.
With Ineos signing its big-name captains into long-term deals, the 23-year-old may have to tread a different path from Bernal in 2022 if he wants to muscle out of the mould of domesetique that he has been cast into.
He’s got the legs and he’s got the youth. Now he just needs to leave Bernal’s shadow.