The 2014 edition of the Giro d’Italia will go down in history as a Colombian triumph
In the three week race through Northern Ireland, Ireland and Italy, the escarabajos conquered Italian soil. Quintana, Uran, Arredondo, Henao and the talents from Colombia Cycling Pro became the champions of this Giro. This will undoubtedly raise expectations for the Tour de France, the biggest of the grand tours which is coming up.
Twenty four year old Nairo Quintana from Movistar confirmed himself as the star of the moment and of the future; winning the 21 day race as well as the white jersey for best youngster. The seeds of his victory were sown in the 16th stage, where he recorded an historic stage win roughing through the ice walls of the Monte Stelvio. Quintana extended his lead in the steep climbing time trial to the top of Monte Grappa, leaving no doubt he was the deserved champ.
Nairo stated it was not as easy as it seemed; “I’ve won in a good style but I’ve suffered as much as the others. It’s obvious that I haven’t been in perfect health conditions. I still have runny nose.” He said, “Life pushed me and continues to push me. I’ve grown up pretty quickly with the help of those around me; I’ve learned a lot and taken some giant steps.”
His compatriot Rigoberto Uran was moderately satisfied with second place – matching his successful result from last year. His big moment this year came in the 12th stage with the flat time trial, when he not only won the stage but took the pink leader jersey from Australian veteran Evans. He then lost the pink jersey to Quintana in the heaviest stage and was not able to recover crucial time in the following week. “I thought I could win the Giro. I believed that after the time trial, but I can never finish it off in the Grand Tours,” he told reporters.
Apart from Quintana and Uran’s performances, Arredondo stood out winning the blue mountain jersey as best climber and taking the 18th Rifugio Panarotta stage win; Arredondo paid homage to his team manager Josu Larrazabal: “I have had difficult times during this Giro and even thought of abandoning. Two days ago, on the Stelvio, I thought I’d finish last. Josu put me in the car, warmed me up, and gave me the courage to start again. At the foot of the final climb, I wanted to attack, but Josu told me to wait. Then, much higher up, he said, ‘Julián, now!’ So I won the stage because of his advice.”
Colombian Cycling Pro stood out by attacking wherever possible. Together, the team showed the established order can expect more Colombians at the top. Fabio Corti, the team manager for Colombia Cycling Pro was pleased with his team’s performance. “What we did in this Giro was good. There has been a show, we have fought and were very close to a stage win, which for us would have been the best.” (Referring to Fabio Duarte’s second place finish on the won 18th stage.)
Youngest competitor Sebastian Henao finished the Giro in impressive style. At just 20, he finished on a remarkable 22nd place in the general classification, not giving away space to the stars. He said: “At the beginning the team told me to do just two weeks, but besides completing I always thought of making a mark in this race, Sky were very happy and thrilled with my result.”
The next challenge is already in sight with the Tour de France coming up. On July 5, the peloton will be off in Leeds, finishing three weeks later at the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Colombia’s dominance in Italy may raise expectations for the Tour de France, but the Colombian presence will be scarce. Quintana, Uran and Arredondo are all taking short vacations, while the Colombian Cycling Pro did not receive an invitation.
However, Colombian Carlos Betancur is said to be the trump card for the French AG2R team, although at this point there is a question mark hanging over his participation. His team say that he has not shown up for recent team meetings, because of a motivational problem.
Good news came for Sergio Henao, the older cousin of Sebastian Henao, from the British Sky team: he has been cleared from doping allegations so is able to compete again. A good performance in Switzerland may get him a place in the team of Tour de France favourite, Christopher Froome.