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2014 may just be the year where we will see the Colombians return to former glories, and very possible also exceed past achievements

Photo: ASO

CARLOS ALBERTO BETANCUR

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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RIGOBERTO URAN

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SERGIO LUIS HENAO

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24.10.2013 @ 12:12 Posted by Patrick Lorien

An armada of talent

 

The recent signing of Colombian climber Esteban Chavez, by Australian Orrica-Greenedge, confirmed what has only been a too obvious trend during the last couple of years; namely that the Colombians are coming (again), and it looks like they are here to stay. Only god – and perhaps Claudio Corti – knows what they are capable of achieving in 2014, let alone in the future years.

 

Riders like Quintana, Uran, Betancour and Henao have already become household names, and they are backed by an impressive array of professionals, who swarm the international cycling scene. Acevedo, Arbelaez, Chalapud, Duarte, Jaramillo, Orejuela, and Pantano are but of the few we might have to get used to see (more) on the podiums of 2014. In the shadows – or should we perhaps say the Colombian mountains – lurk plenty of talent and additional upcoming stars.

 

But… the Colombians have been here before, have they not?

 

Colombia’s bumpy ride

 

It was the likes of Roberto Ramirez, Ramón Hoyos, Cochise Rodriques and Efrain Forero who helped accelerate Colombian cycling into a national entity of pride and prestige. The escarabajos turned cycling into a dance on the mountains, and set the course for an influx of Colombians, soon perpetrating international races and events. The Vuelta of Colombia became a beacon of the sport within the Americas, attracting such teams as La Vie Claire, Peugeot and Renault, which allowed for a hitherto unfathomed reciprocity between Colombian and international riders.

 

It all culminated in the 80’s and 90’s, with Colombians riders playing key roles in numerous races; specific praise should go to the likes of Botero, Herrera and Parra, although there were indeed many others. Most fans remembers Herrera’s quote about how the Alpe d’Huez was just too short for Columbian riders, and who knows what would have happened, were the mountains of France, Italy and Spain longer and steeper.

 

It may be, that it is the Columbian physiology and geography, derived from a mountainous environment located in high altitudes, which accounts for much of its success in cycling. It certainly produces riders with an ideal climber’s build. It could also be the Columbian Ciclovia, where Bogota has closed of 75 miles of roads to traffic, ever since the late 70’s during, every single Sunday and holiday; thus providing cyclists with unique opportunities, or at least embedding the sport in national commemoration.

 

But it still not explains the “lean” years, where Colombian cycling was far from evident on the international cycling scene. What happened? Who knows, but they are certainly back!

 

The nationally backed Team Colombia, led by the experienced Claudio Corti, and its prominence in Colombian self-consciousness, has figured prominently; although the team has not quite yet met expectations. Perhaps most evident at the recent Giro di Italia.

 

4-72, the national incubator-team of talent, could also constitute a piece in the puzzle of Colombian return. Uniquely (for their level and geographical location) they carry out the bio-passport program, which attracts World Tour teams to the bounty. The claiming of the Tour de Alsace team classification, and a second place to Orejuela, certainly bears witness to their potential.

 

Attitude, not altitude

 

2014 may just be the year where we will see the Colombians return to former glories, and very possible also exceed past achievements. Quintana for the Tour, and perhaps the Giro. Uran for which ever Grand Tour Omega Pharma-Quick Step lets him loose upon. Betancour to do a Monument(al) surprise, and likely with a few more tricks up his sleeve. Henao for smaller stage races and perhaps the Vuelta. And please, do not forget about all the rest.

 

Increasingly, Colombia and its riders are backed (and hired) by Protour and Professional Continental teams, who recognize the potential of the young South Americans. The recent and frequent signings for once constitutes a tit for tat, which is perhaps slightly more beneficial towards a "lesser" cyclist nation, rather than to the usual Eurocentric or Anglospheric countries.

 

Maybe it is really about attitude, rather than altitude? Colombia believes in their young rising cyclists, and perhaps it is this that helps shape their destinies.

 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of Colombia's foremost novelists and poets, might express it more eloquently:

 

“In the end, it is impossible not to become what others believe you are.”

 

For the record... In Colombia they view their professional cyclists as stars. See Marquez’ point?

 

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