martes, 3 de junio de 2014

The Secrets of the Sudden Success of Colombian Cyclists

All smiles:Nairo Quintana celebrates victory in the Giro d'Italia.
the Giro d'Italia, which ended yesterday. was all Colombia. Boyacense Nairo Quintana finished first, Antioqueño Rigoberto Urán second and fellow Antioqueño Julián Arredondo took the King of the Mountain jersey. Perhaps we should have seen it all coming since last year, when Quintana finished second and won the best climber's jersey in the Tour de France and Urán took second in the Giro d'Italia.

Rigoberrto Urán pops open a frizzy one after winning
stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia.
These guys are only the best known of a crop of young riders. How has Colombia produced such a great crop of young riders? What's changed? Here are some ideas:

Colombia's economy has grown, enabling local businesses to sponsor young riders and help them onto the first rung of the ladder toward professional racing.

Colombia is safer - This has made Colombia's own tour, the Vuelta a Colombia, more attractive to foreign riders, giving Colombian cyclists both more high-lever racing experience and opportunity to be discovered by Eruopean racing teams.

World cycling authorities have cracked down on doping. According to this theory, Colombia's many
Julian Arredondo, the Giro d'Italia's best climber.
mountains and opportunities for high-altitude training give its riders a natural advantage - but that advantage was for many years nullified by the common use of drugs like EPO,and blood transfusions, which artificially boost red blood cell levels. In the post-Lance Armstrong era, doping seems to have dropped - or at least changed - perhaps restoring high-altitude trainers' natural advantages.

Whatever happens, Colombia's cycling boom has potential to last, and even grow. That's pretty good for a relatively small, relatively poor developing nation.

Even so, as others have observed, cycling still receives only a fraction of the attention of futbol. Hundreds of Colombian journalists are following the national football squad during its World Cup training, but only a few covered the Giro d'Italia - even tho Colombia's not likely to win the football World Cup. El Tiempo, the country's main newspaper, covered its front page Monday with a picture of Quintana kissing the Giro's trophy, and even dyed the paper pink (representing the winning rider's pink jersey). But by this afternoon, the paper's website had returned to World Cup coverage.

Results of the 2010 Giro d'Italia. The sole Colombian flag marks Rigoberto Urán, the seventh-ranked young rider.

What a difference five years make! The 2014 Giro d'Italia's winners lists have eight Colombian flags - altho three of them belong to Nairo Quintana.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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