Colombian Cyclist Egan Arley Bernal Gómez Wins Tour De France
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
For the first time in the history of the Tour de France, a Colombian cyclist has won. His name is Egan Bernal, and he is also the youngest rider to win the Tour in more than a century. In Bernal's home country, thousands of people gathered to celebrate. Here is Colombian broadcaster Alfredo Castro.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ALFREDO CASTRO: (Speaking Spanish).
INSKEEP: I hardly need translation there. But he's saying, "the Colombian victory - Egan Bernal. Extraordinary what has happened today. My voice escapes me; my heart is exploding." Maybe not the most unbiased journalism ever, but you get the point.
Caley Fretz is editor-in-chief of CyclingTips, and he was watching the Tour de France. He's in Paris. Welcome to the program.
CALEY FRETZ: Thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: What was it like to be watching this event?
FRETZ: Oh, it was incredible. It was a fantastic, fantastic Tour of France for a whole bunch of reasons, not least the fact that it was capped by a victory I guess unlike we've seen in a very long time. Twenty-two-year-old Egan Bernal, as you said, took his first win at the Tour de France, sort of took the torch, so to speak, from his own teammate Geraint Thomas, who won it last year. And we had this whole story wrapped around French champion Julian Alaphilippe, who kept us all on the edge of our seats until the very end of the Tour de France.
INSKEEP: You know, it's not unheard of to have a superstar athlete who's 22 in some other sports. But it sounds like it's pretty rare in cycling. Is there something about cycling that normally you need a little more maturity to win a race like this?
FRETZ: Yeah, and in particular the Tour de France because this is - it's a three-week race. It's 21 stages. They ride 3,500 kilometers over the course of those three weeks. It just takes a bit longer to kind of get the kilometers in your legs, the miles in your legs. So it is very unusual to have an athlete this good this young. It's not unheard of. Laurent Fignon, one of the most recent French winners of the Tour de France, he won it at 23. So...
FRETZ: ...It's not impossible.
INSKEEP: Got you. Now, there was an unusual event in the course of this race. As I understand it, the stage in which Bernal took over as the overall leader, they actually had to stop the race at one point. What happened?
FRETZ: Yeah. So we're up in the Alps. And as often happens in the mountains, some storms came through. And we got about - I don't know - 3 or 4 inches of hail in a very small area on the...
FRETZ: ...Back of the Col de l'Iseran. And that caused massive flooding and a landslide. And so Egan Bernal was actually off the front already in the race. He was descending off the back of this climb and had about - I think a minute gap or so. And they had to shut down the race and take the time from the top of the climb. It was kind of the only option. There was absolutely no way for the Tour de France to get through.
INSKEEP: Landslides, flooding and hail - that's pretty intense if you're on a bike. I have to ask because there were allegations of doping over the years in the Tour de France. Does it seem like this was a clean race so far as anybody knows?
FRETZ: Oh, that's a very difficult question. It is - it felt cleaner - it's felt cleaner for quite some time. Cycling is - among international sport, I think it's one of the best in terms of its antidoping efforts at this point. It's been on the biological passport for a very long time. I do firmly believe that the sport is as clean as it's ever been right now. But you never really know. It's still international sport. I think we all - well, we all know what happens in international sport (laughter).
INSKEEP: I guess you learn...
FRETZ: So I'd like to believe, I would.
INSKEEP: You learn more things over time. But what we know now is that Egan Bernal, at the age of 22, is the winner - the champion of the Tour de France.
Mr. Fretz, thanks so much.
FRETZ: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: Caley Fretz is the editor-in-chief of CyclingTips and joined us from Paris.
(SOUNDBITE OF TOTORRO'S "MOTTE-ROCK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.