Chris Hoy believes "fierce competitor" Egan Bernal can return to full strength despite the injuries he suffered in a horror crash earlier this year.
Bernal, who won the Tour de France in 2019 and the Giro d'Italia in 2021, was treated in intensive care following the accident in Colombia in January.
The 25-year-old underwent multiple operations after sustaining a fractured vertebra, a fractured right femur, a fractured right patella, chest trauma, a punctured lung and several fractured ribs.
Bernal subsequently revealed in a social media post that there was a "95 per cent chance" of him being paralysed or losing his life.
However, after leaving hospital, Bernal is now on the road to recovery and this month shared a photo of him training on a static bike at home.
Adivinen quien está de nuevo en su bici y se siente una chimba!! Desde que exista fe, todo es posible. Y quiero decirles que cuando uno realmente quiere algo, NO hay PERO que valga. #unavidadeexcesos pic.twitter.com/JOtPU8p0l2— Egan Arley Bernal (@Eganbernal) March 12, 2022
Hoy, speaking to Stats Perform to mark 500 days until the start of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, said he is hoping Bernal will be back competing at the highest level after a long road to recovery.
"I guess it's always hard to tell just how bad an injury or how bad mentally a big crash can affect athletes and with social media, you're always trying to portray the best possible side and the positive side all the time," said Hoy, who is one of Great Britain's most successful Olympians with six gold medals.
"But there is no doubt that no matter how well he's doing now, it will have been a huge struggle to get past the physical injuries and the psychological scars as well from such a horrible accident.
"He is a fierce competitor, all the other team-mates who know him say that if anyone can, he can, and I think the cycling community is hoping that he will get back to his very best and be able to compete on the biggest stage. But, you know, it's not a small challenge that he's facing, but we'll have to wait and see."
Four-time Tour de France winner and Bernal's former INEOS Grenadiers team-mate Chris Froome also suffered a horrendous crash in 2019, which put him out of action for almost a year.
Froome was 34 when that accident occurred, and Hoy says Bernal at least has age on his side.
"I think Bernal’s age will help, that the chances on getting back and competing at the highest level, are definitely improved by the fact that he is still relatively young," Hoy said.
"But until you get back into that real cauldron of competition you just don't know what it's going to be like and I guess the longer you're away from competing, the more that fire burns and the more you want to get back and taste that victory again."