It's been an incredible few days for Colombian cycling. Janier Acevedo's victory at the Tour of California was impressive to watch for many reasons, not the least of which was the insane conditions in which it took place. Similarly, Rigoberto Uran and Carlos Betancur's 1-2 at the Giro on Tuesday had many in Colombia conjuring up images of Fabio Parra and Lucho Herrera at Morzine in 1985. As you can imagine, it's been an exciting few days here at Cycling Inquisition headquarters, further exacerbated by the fact that I'll be going to the Giro next week. But more on that later. For now, allow me to share a few rather random thoughts with you which range in both importance and scale.
Rigoberto and Sergio talk about racing and not training together
Beware of those who suddenly take credit
As young and young-ish riders like Acevedo, Uran and Betancur claim victories and put on impressive performances, I'm always weary of those who suddenly take credit for these riders, and their abilities. You'll notice that the people who I mentioned in an earlier post regarding how this current crop of riders came to be, have been quiet through all this, knowing that their work was not merely done in order to draw attention to themselves later on. Their silent enjoyment stands in sharp contrast to that of men like Vicente Belda, fresh from his Puerto trial, who has been telling anyone who will listen that he supposedly not only found Nairo Quintana, but also walked him through the process of signing with Movistar, including telling him what team to go with (this is not true, as I've actually contacted the people involved in Nairo's signing and Belda, thank god, had nothing to do with it. He did, sadly, have a role in Boyaca Es Para Vivirla, an early team for which Quintana raced). Others are now speaking up as well, claiming to have had incredible amounts of influence over these riders.
Even from afar, this whole thing makes me feel a bit uneasy. You can't help but get negative feelings about the formative process that riders go through during their young age, and reminds me of a particular quote from the movie Hoop Dreams, which I've mentioned on the blog before. But this also helps me understand why some riders are so reserved. It might not always be their personalities, but rather their reflexes kicking in, knowing that many want something from them, and just as many want to take credit for what they've done. They wear logos all over themselves after all, and they know that many see them as little more than greyhounds in a race. Favors are done, and help is given to them, but there's usually some strings attached, particularly for those who come from meager means. As far back as 1984—Martin Ramirez told me—winning a major race would bring a long string of people wanting to cash in on earlier favors. Like the list of people who claimed to be "the fifth Beatle", the number of individuals who line up for such honors seems more sad than humorous.
That so few want to help without the need for future kickbacks or glory is interesting, and has left me wanting to know more about them, and how cycling development (particularly in Colombia) operates. It's made me want to put aside those who claim to be behind the success of others, and look more closely at those who continue to develop and help riders in relative silence.
Which brings me to my next point.
|Photo: Manual For Speed|
|Photo: Manual For Speed|
|Photo: Manual For Speed|
The beauty and complexity of Colombian development
In my post last week, I mentioned in passing that I'll be working with Manual For Speed on a new project for much of this year. In short, we'll be looking at the complex mechanism that is development cycling in Colombia. From cities, to rural towns, from clubs and academies, to development teams, and the pro ranks. We will look at the people, coaches, companies, riders, families and patrons of the sport who are the engine behind Colombia's ongoing ability to produce top-level talent. The story of Colombian cycling is bigger than riders at the Giro, or those who dream of getting there. I would argue that the human network that makes up cycling development in Colombia is as complex and beautiful as the country itself. Furthermore, looking closely at it shows that Colombian riders excel in great part because of this Colombian construct. Meaning that their success comes about because of where they were born and raised, not in spite of it.
I'll keep you posted as this project is officially launched. In the meantime, you can see a very, very small teaser here.
The Cycling Anthology, Volume Two
If you're anything like me, you're probably good looking, and posses a certain boyish charm about you. That aside, you probably also like reading about cycling. If that's the case, I'd like to call your attention to the second edition of the Cycling Anhtology series. Not only because this second volume is entirely focused on the Tour de France and contains writing by an impressive list of contributors (among them: Ned Boulting, William Fotheringham, Ellis Bacon, Edward Pickering, James Stratt, and Daniel Lloyd)...but because somehow the editors decided to include a chapter in the book by yours truly.
Though some will no doubt insist that having a chapter by me in the book must either be a printing error, or a lapse in judgement, I assure you that I took the task at hand seriously. For it, I interviewed riders and other figures in Colombian cycling, in order to detail how the first all-Colombian team came to compete at the Tour de France, and how Colombia's original golden era in the sport came to a close in the early 90s. Through these interviews, I came upon great stories and insights (as well as some rather humorous stories that include everything from lying to priests to getting fined for peeing) that I had never heard of before, including some from riders who were there in that first Tour.
If you are interested in buying the book, you can pre-order here. Pre-orders will be shipping as early as this following week, the moment copies are in from the printer. The book is $12 in the US, and £7.99 in the UK.
You'll always be my baby
I've mentioned before just how unusual the music selection at major races in Europe is. At the Paris-Roubaix sign in one year, I heard the following playlist:
Mariah Carey - Always be my baby
Whitney Houston - How will I know?
Shania Twain - That don't impress me much
In true Italian fashion, the Giro d'Italia has taken this concept one step further, playing the Kiss disco anthem I Was Made For Lovin' You during the podium ceremony for stage winners...Rigoberto Uran included. This borders on performance art, and creates a sub-cultural mélange that would have blown my mind when I was five years old (a time when I treasured both Kiss and professional cycling). Come to think of it, it still blows my mind today. And thank god for that. It's the little things I suppose.