Unusually young Colombian Egan Bernal became Sunday night the first-ever Latin American to win the Tour de France.
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“I am the happiest guy in the world. I just won the Tour de France, and, yeah, I can’t believe it,” said the 22-year-old winner of the most prestigious and famous cycling race. Bernal did not win any stage and was in the lead in just two stages, however, a solid ride and strategy crowned him champion.
Bernal who is the youngest rider to win the tour in 110 years, proved to be the stronger among 176 strong men that started the 3,366-km race in Brussels, Belgium, three weeks ago.
The newborn superstar crossed the line riding his yellow bike for team Ineos, in what tour organizers described as the tightest podium in the history of the race, while he beat teammate and defending champion Geraint Thomas by one minute 11 seconds, with Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk coming third, 1:31 off the pace.
“I cannot believe it. It’s just incredible. I am sorry. I have no words,” he said at the end of the Tour falling in the arms of his family, adding that “I still can’t understand what is happening to me.”
Colombians received their new champion Sunday with grand celebrations on the famous Champs Elysees avenue.
“When I saw that he won, I said, ‘I need to go with my music to support him',” said clarinet-playing Colombian fan Sebastian Cortes, who traveled from Strasbourg in eastern France.
Keeping with the Tour tradition on its final day, the stage started at a pedestrian pace and in a joyful atmosphere. Bernal chatted with French rival Julian Alaphilippe and raised a glass of champagne as he rode.
Speaking in French before the start, Bernal thanked "France for organizing the most beautiful race in the world, and the most beautiful victory of my life."