Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Those Were the Days - A Look at Colombian Cycling Today

Rigoberto Uran gave Colombia it's 12th medal in Olympic competition history.

There’s little doubt that Colombian cycling has had their best year in recent history. Miguel Ángel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli), Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone), Cayetano Sarmiento (Liquigas), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Duarte and Darwin Atapuma (Colombia-Coldeportes), and Sergio Henao (Team Sky) all had great seasons.

But the real star of Colombian cycling this year was, of course, Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran. The young Colombian had an outstanding Volta a Catalunya, where he won a stage, he took the young riders' classification in the Giro d’Italia, he gave Colombia a silver medal in the London Olympics and toped off the season with a victory in  the Giro del Piemonte and a podium in Lombardia.

Spread in the September 2012 issue of Italian magazine Bici Sport.

All these achievements have not gone unnoticed in the world’s press. Italy’s biggest cycling magazine, Bici Sport, dedicated 12 pages in their September issue to Colombian cycling, and in particular to Uran and Betancur. It’s fitting that the story opened with a 2-page spread with an image of Luis Herrera sporting the Tour polka dot jersey, since many in the cycling world often use Herrera, and the other escarabajos in the 1980s, as reference for how low Colombian cycling has fallen in the last 30 years. Sure, Victor Hugo Peña, who is the only Colombian to ever wear the Yellow Jersey in the Tour (2003), and 2002 TT World Champion Santiago Botero, had outstanding careers, but in the hearts of Colombians, the late 1990s and early 2000s seem almost insignificant in comparison to the “Golden Years” of the Cafe de Colombia and Postobon teams.

1988: Fabio Parra (right), the only Colombian to podium at the Tour de France.

Growing up, as I did, in the midst of a cycling-crazy Colombia in the 1980s it’s hard to disagree. “Those were the days,” I often tell people, when we talk cycling. If I am correct and those were the days, then what about today? Are today also “the days”? Are “the days” back? It sure seems so. 

In 2012 Miguel Ángel Rubiano won a stage in the Giro d’Italia, Carlos Betancur won the Trofeo Melinda, Cayetano Sarmiento took the mountain’s classification in the Dauphiné, Fabio Duarte won the Coppa Sabatini (with Rubiano in second), and Sergio Henao had a break-out year with Team Sky, and let us not forget the previously mentioned achievments of Uran.

Quintana, during the 2012 Tour of Murcia.

What does 2013 bring for Colombia in the world of cycling?  Well, Fabio Duarte and the rest of team Colombia-Coldeportes will be back, although it may change names, depending on sponsorship. Their main objective will be to gain a wild card into the Giro. Carlos Betancur has moved to a ProTour team (AG2R), as has Jose Serpa (Lampre). Henao and Uran have proven their worth in Team Sky and with Juan Antonio Flecha leaving to Vacansoleil, the spring may be a rewarding season for the pair. Winner Anacona (Lampre) may live up to his name, now that his countryman, Serpa, will be in his team, but the one I’m most looking forward to seeing next year, is Nairo Quintana for Movistar. At 22 and only one year as a pro, he has already won the Vuelta a Murcia (plus a stage), a stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné, and a stage in the Giro de Emilia. He also won the overall (and a stage) in the Route du Sud. A feat no other Colombian had achieved since Alvaro Mejia in 1994.

Maybe “the days” really are back. Even better, maybe “the days” are yet to come.

Please remember: The pre-order for the Speed Metal Cycling jerseys ends THIS Friday. 


  1. Kind of like that Natalie Merchant song "These are the days?" Crazy thing is you don't even have to mention the BMX successes to make your point. Co-lo-mbia!!