Strong 2014 performance has raised expectations for Colombia’s budding cycling stars in the new year
RIFUGIO PANAROTTA, May 29, 2014: it’s a sunny afternoon in northern Italy. The crowd is waiting to see two riders atop an Alpine mountain coming round the last bend to dispute the stage win. Here they come, two minutes to go and two Colombians – Julian Arredondo and Fabio Duarte – in an internal Colombian battle for the podium spots.
Half an hour later, both are on the podium. After them come another Colombian pair, this time in the general classification, again number one and two – Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran. It may look as if we’re in the Giro de Colombia, but this is the Giro d’Italia – the second most important multi-stage race on the cycling calendar.
It’s already been a wonderful season for Colombia. Starting in San Luis, a picturesque northern region of Argentina, with
a stage win and an overall win for Nairo. Plus another stage win for Arredondo, who sets his name in the international peloton. The next test, one of the two most important spring stage races is Paris-Nice, where Carlos Betancur wins a stage and the overall classification.
On to the Giro d’Italia, and the best-ever Colombian performance in the entire history of the race! Quintana and Uran take 1st and 2nd in the general classification for Colombians, respectively. The blue jersey for the winner of the mountain classification is in Arredondo’s hands at the finish line and many stage wins for the top Colombians on top of that.
A decent showing by the government-sponsored academy team, Colombia Pro Cycling, and a very promising debut of Sebastian Henao, the youngest cyclist in this year’s edition of the Giro, makes it the most successful chapter in Colombian cycling to date.
Besides Henao and Arredondo, Esteban Chavez had his big breakthrough this year with stage wins in the Tour de Langkawi, Tour de California and Tour de Suisse.
In the Vuelta a Espana, Winner Anacona went from master domestique to serious contender for the top spots, plus good old ‘mister moustache’ Jose Serpa got his screentime.
On the downside we should mention suspension of the hugely talented Sergio Henao due to his suspicious blood levels. His late season injury during his comeback race was an extra blow, as it came just after he’d been cleared of all the doping charges. Plus a downhill spiral of results for previously mentioned Betancur, who, having won Paris Nice, disappeared for months in Colombia and then came back overweight to finish last in all the following races he participated in.
No need to revisit the lower points of this year, as Nairo crashed out of the Vuelta a España, fractured his shoulder blade and finishing his season. Bronchitus slowed Urán in both the Vuelta and the UCI Road World Championships, resulting in a disappointing end to the season for the Colombian greats.
What to expect in 2015? The sky’s the limit. Nairo is focusing on the Tour, Uran is considering the Giro, Betancur will hopefully be back to his usual self, Arredondo to improve on his last season’s results. All in all, it should be Colombia Coldeportes topping this year’s performances: I can’t wait to see it.
By Arek Peryt