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Colombia's Egan Bernal crosses the finish line of the stage 13 of the Tour de France in 2020. Image Credit: AP

Paris: Egan Bernal is grateful to be able to return to the Tour de France after he suffered a near-fatal crash in a high-speed collision in January last year, the Colombian said on Wednesday.

Bernal, who won the 2019 Tour and 2021 Giro d’Italia, required multiple surgeries after crashing into a stationary bus while training in his home country. He said the accident left him with a 95% chance of becoming a paraplegic, but he was back on his bike two months later.

“I think I should be grateful to be alive, to be here and to be in the Tour squad,” Bernal told reporters on Wednesday.

“I would love to get back to my level, to race again and see what it will be like to be against these big names. I try to compare myself to them and that’s why I keep cycling. I wake up every day working and thinking about it, about starting to get back to my best.

Two-year break

“Whether I achieve that goal or not is different, but that’s what I’m working for,” he added.

The 26-year-old had a two-year break from the Tour after he abandoned the race in 2020, skipped it in 2021 and missed the 2022 edition.

But he said he was excited to be back and being selected for the Tour by his Ineos Grenadiers team has filled him with motivation.

The Ineos squad will be led by Briton Tom Pidcock, while Colombian Dani Martinez is also in contention for the general classification.

Complete team

“We have a very complete team with young riders behind us who know how talented they are, like Tom (Pidcock) who is coming on very strong and I’m sure the first stages will go very well for him, we have riders who can have a very good race,” he added.

“I think I’m in good condition, obviously, you have to be to race here. I feel good. I think the last two weeks between the Dauphine and the Tour have helped me to train and improve a bit more. I think I’ll be in better condition, that’s positive.” Bernal finished 12th overall at the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month, the most important stage race in the build-up to the Tour, which starts on Saturday in Bilbao, Spain.