Three-time Tour de France champion Greg Lemond has some pointed advice for Egan Bernal.
“Please, Chris Froome is not your friend. And the moment that you give a victory away to him, it will be a loss for his career and his life. Do not do that,” Lemond told VeloNews.
Lemond is still suffering major flashbacks and PTSD trauma from his teammate and captain Bernard Hinault stealing what could have been his first Tour de France win in 1985 and then the Frenchman essentially lying about supporting him in the 1986 Tour.
It makes Lemond very agitated when he hears the news that Bernal is quite happy to ride for Froome in the 2020 Tour despite the Colombian being the reigning champion.
“I’m sorry, Chris Froome’s at the end of his career and this guy’s at the beginning, he should not give any gifts to anybody. It’s his for the taking and he’s stronger than Chris,” said Lemond, who to this day never sends a birthday gift to his old La Vie Claire teammate.
Lemond’s fear is that Froome will be Bernal’s Badger and prevent the young prodigy from winning his second Tour as Froome desperately fights age and Team Ineos rivals to win his record-tying fifth Tour.
“And no doubt, at 22 years old, I would not relinquish any victory. I’m telling that to all young people, don’t get bought in by these people who seduce you because you’re a past Tour de France winner. Take your own direction, lead your own way because you don’t get a second chance,” said Lemond, who never drops by Hinault’s farm in Brittany for a glass or two of champagne and good old days reminisces.
It is, of course, a fascinating sporting and psychological drama. Bernal is the strongest climber in the modern peloton and no slouch against the clock. In any other squad except the obscenely rich Team Ineos, he’d be the clear leader versus one of three teammates (along with Froome and Geraint Thomas) who have won the Tour at least once.
Froome continues his diligent rehabilitation from a multitude of serious injuries. There are a good number of experts who openly wonder if he’ll ever regain his Tour winning form at age 35. Then again, his ex-rival at Sky, Bradley Wiggins, doesn’t doubt for a second that Froome will be back stronger than ever.
In Geraint Thomas’ biography, he’s very clear about his disappointment in Sky’s preference and allegiance to Froome in the 2018 Tour de France. It was not until the third week that Sky and Froome finally decided that Thomas was the stronger rider and deserved the team’s full support.
That organizational behavior sets up an even stronger case for Bernal as the back-up singer. Froome will be trying to make his own cycling history, cement his legacy and join a select group of five-time Tour de France winners Hinault, Indurain, Anquetil and Merckx. Nobody, not even a massively talented teammate like Bernal, is going to stand in his way.
Bernard Hinault’s nickname was the Badger. However, there’s one final thing to keep in mind. Apparently, back in Colombia, Bernal is called The Beast. Lemond will be happy to note that doesn’t sound very subservient.