Colombia with passion

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Colombia Es Pasion

It was in the late 1980s when I first began to catch the Tour de France. At the time the Colombians had an almost mythical ability in the Tour de France. I didn’t understand much about the sport but I knew in the mountains that Lucho Herrera, Pablo Wilches and Fabio Parra were able to win and to liven up any summit finish. There were two teams from Colombia, Café de Colombia and Postobon. In time the South Americans collected a very respectable list of results, from stage wins to placings in races like the Vuelta, Dauphiné and Tour de France.

The Colombians also brought very animated commentators who would give typical latin flair to their flow. I can’t find a clip but here’s the soccer equivalent. It wasn’t just heated commentary, in time they also brought cocaine.

But now the Colombians are back. They’ve got a Pro Continental team with Colombia es Pasión-Café de Colombia. It has 14 registered riders although the team lists more on their website. The team is modest in budget and scope but compensates with talent. They’ve secured some invites to European races and are currently riding the Volta a Catalunya. Today Alex Cano was sixth on today’s big mountain stage, ahead of riders like Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans. Nairo Quintana, winner of the 2010 Tour de l’Avenir, will wear the mountains jersey tomorrow too. He is tied with Alberto Contador but the Spaniard is also in first place on the overall. Performances like this should bring more invites, these guys know how to liven up a race.

Los otros
There are several other Colombians in the bunch too. First, there’s José Serpa. His name means “sherpa” and he certainly excels in the mountains but he’s proving a punchy rider with a fast finish. A big talent seems to be Rigoberto Uran, a crafty signing by Team Sky, I wondered if he’d be out of place on the team but they’ve gone out of their way to sign Spanish speakers, like Xavier Xandio plus they’ve got Nico Portal, the French underwear model has converted from rider to DS and he speaks fluent Spanish. There’s Fabio Duarte too, the 2008 U-23 World Champion who is with Geox and already has some results to his name this year. There are more, including the most French of them, Leonard Duque who rides for Cofidis. A fast finisher on a hilly stage, Duque has never landed a big results but is often in the top-10.

Rebuilding
The country as a whole has bee through a lot. The narcotics trade almost overwhelmed the nation but things today are far more stable, I’ve heard great things from people visiting. The return of Colombians to major races reflects the renewed stability and rising prosperity. As the sport globalises they might be one nation amongst many but for me there’s something about the Colombians, perhaps a feeling from my earliest memories of the Tour on TV, that’s exciting to watch.

CK March 24, 2011 at 7:30 am

They have 17 riders…Pro Conti team cannot have 14 riders (They need at least 16 riders.

The Inner Ring March 24, 2011 at 8:16 am

Thanks. I only got 14 on their official list at the start of the season.

Starr March 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Much like Belgium, Colombia loves football and cycling, not always in that order.

Andy March 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm

It’s great to see Duarte get his chance, and don’t forget Mauricio Ardila – he’s still around and always a strong hand for his captain.

My wife is Colombian so we always have someone to cheer on – and the scene down in Colombia is quite nice. On our visit we always felt safe, saw plenty of rides going on and even in our hotel they had a picture of Leonardo Duque on the celebrity guest wall. It’s the real deal there.

Now hopefully Serpa figures out his lucky facial combination and kills it at the Giro!

Larry T. March 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I still remember Lucho Herrera winning the Tre Cime stage of the Giro d’Italia 1989, a minute ahead of eventual overall winner Laurent Fignon. That was my first taste of Italy and La Corsa Rosa. With Gianni Savio losing Scarponi I’m sure he’s now counting on Serpa to carry the team hopes at the Giro 2011. One of the old Coors Classic videos has a clip showing the VERY enthusiasticColombian announcer relaying the day’s stage to the home country, ya gotta admire the passion!

TheSkullKrusher March 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm

We love our cycling in Colombia, that’s for sure! Jose Serpa Perez “El Leon de Bucaramanga” is the man, watch out for him during the Giro.

Good Colombian cycling stories: http://www.cyclinginquisition.com/

The Inner Ring March 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Starr: I wonder if it’s still as popular. I hope so.

Andy: I hear good things about the country so I hope you enjoy visits there.

TheSkullKrusher: I really like the cycling inquisition website.

If anyone else is interested to find out more, take a look at “Kings of the Mountains” by Matt Rendell.

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