Catholic cyclist Egan Bernal called the meeting "the most beautiful experience" he ever had.
After Pope Francis’ June 16 general audience, the pontiff received an unexpected gift. Colombian cyclist Egan Bernal, winner of the 2021 Giro d’Italia race, presented Pope Francis with his bicycle and jersey.
Bernal, 24, made history this year when he became the youngest winner of the Giro d’Italia in nearly a century. In celebration of his victory, he made a gift of his cycling memorabilia. The pink jersey he gave the pope was the same he wore on the course and the bike was painted in papal colors.
Pope Francis was thrilled to meet Bernal and he spent several minutes congratulating the Catholic athlete. According to Rome Reports, the pope commented on Bernal’s strength at the pedals before asking, with tongue in cheek:
“How many cups of Colombian coffee do you drink before?”
Pope Francis laughed with Bernal and his girlfriend before blessing them both. In an interview afterward, Bernal expressed how thrilled he was with the meeting. Of his interaction with Pope Francis, he said:
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am very happy, still in shock with what happened. I was very surprised to be in the pope’s presence. It was really a unique experience. I think it’s the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had… I grew up in a Catholic Family. I’m Catholic, so this has been the most significant encounter with God so far…
“I told him it was an honor to be there, and that, on behalf of all Colombians, I wanted to give him a bike painted especially for him, and the Giro’s maglia rosa, from me and all Colombians, who need his blessing right now. Then he blessed my girlfriend and me.”
This is not the first time Pope Francis has been presented with a bicycle from a professional cyclist. In 2018, he was given another bike and championship jersey from Slovinian cyclist Peter Sagan. This donation, sold at auction, enabled the Holy See to raise money for good works. It is likely the Vatican will auction off Bernal’s memorabilia as well.