Monday, November 9, 2009

Pablo Escobar, Guerrillas, and My Dream Bike

Pablo "El Patron" Escobar

This post is on the long side, and may at first not appear to have anything to do with cycling...but it does, I assure you. There's just some background information on the subject that I must first tell you about before I can delve into Pablo Escobar's connections to cycling, and one bike company in particular. I've always hated to dwell on the negative aspects of Colombia's history, but felt that this topic was worth addressing.

Pablo Escobar and Colombia in the 80s
On the evening of April 30, 1984 I sat quietly on the stool next to my dad's workbench. My father enjoyed working on model trains, and I would spend hours on that stool looking over his shoulder on most nights. Suddenly, the radio over his workbench ran a news bulletin. Not far from our family home in Bogota, the Minister of Justice (Rodrigo Lara Bonilla) had been assassinated while being driven in his car. At close range, a 17 year old gunman had unloaded nearly an entire Uzi magazine into his body.

Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Minister of Justice who was assasinated. The reason? Having gone after the drug cartels, and having suggested extradition for drug traffickers.

It was on that day that the Colombia I knew began to unravel, and the city I was born and raised in began to come undone. Although few knew it at the time, a single man was behind it all. Drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. In the coming years, Bogota's citizens began to feel their lives change as a result of Escobar's whims. Bombings became fairly common, as did extreme acts of violence against politicians, civilians and the press. One of the two major newspapers in the country was bombed, its executive editor was murdered. Even a kid like me, who grew up in a stable home, got to see and experience some of the insanity that was all around. I remember one Sunday afternoon outing with my family in particular, during which i saw the body of a heavyset man who had just been murdered. I was only six years old at the time. Having just taken a bullet to the forehead at point blank range, the man's facial features looked distorted as his body was draped with a white tablecloth. Once the pristine tablecloth came into contact with the man's face, the blood quickly spread and created a stain as large as the man himself

I also remember a Saturday afternoon in Bogota. My brother and I looked over the menu at a Burger King in our local mall, a large explosion shattered the glass panels behind us, sending us both down to our knees. Within seconds the dust was so thick that we were unable to see a foot in front of us. A carbomb had been detonated in the parking lot adjacent to the mall. I remember seeing people who had been hurt by the shrapnel running as they bled. Bags of nuts and bolts had been placed around the explosives, and those who were spared by the damage of the original blast, were caught in a shower of shrapnel. This was the mood of the times, all largely driven by Escobar's will and his personal battles.

In November of 1984, Escobar directed M-19 guerrilla members to take over the "Palace Of Justice", holding 500 hostage and eventually killing 11 Supreme Court Justices. The M-19 guerrillas, like all Colombians, were cycling fans. In June 1984, only months before the Palace Of Justice siege, they released a statement to the press congratulating the Cafe De Colombia team for winning the Dauphine Libere. "They are ours, they are Colombian, and they have defeated Hinault, Lemond, Simon and Anderson. These Colombian men have risen very high, from so low."

Through all these tough times, cycling (and later soccer as well) became the only medicine that helped cheer up an entire nation. Had Karl Marx known how seriously Colombians would take sports, he would have said that cycling, not religion, was the opiate of the masses. I seldom speak freely to non-Colombians about Escobar and that era in our history, because he represents the awful stereotype that has haunted Colombians for decades. For the sake of not making this post insanely long(er), I will bypass all the usual disclaimer copy. I believe you all know that not all Colombians were involved in the drug trade, I hope you all know that Colombia is not a backwards jungle or a warzone. Yes, we have electricity...we don't live in huts, and we have running water. You can even read about my experience riding in Bogota here. Colombianos, like so many other people around the world, are hard working individuals who have been dealt a partially bad hand.

As a result of the negative effect that Escobar had on my life, I don't blindly idolize him. I don't see him as some sort of Robin Hood figure, much like some in the greater New York City area idolized mafioso John Gotti. I don't much care for his Scarface like depiction in hip-hop circles as of late. My relationship with Pablo Escobar (if you can call it a "relationship") was tempestuous at best. He made years of my life as a kid very tough. His decisions affected me personally, so I never liked the man. Still, a part of me continues to be fascinated by his outlandish life story. After all, whether I like it or not, his life was a part of mine growing up. Add to this his connections to the world of cycling and you have a perfect recipe for what has to easily be my dream bike. Stockholm Syndrome? Perhaps.

The Drug Trade and the StigmaFor many years Colombians have been associated with the drug trade, but during the 80s we were also known for our famed cyclists. Even in our greatest moments of triumph within the sport, however, the stigma of drug trafficking was there. During the 1984 Dauphine Libere, which Colombian Martin Ramirez won, Bernard Hinault mocked Ramirez by screaming out "Cocaine, cocaine!" as he pretended to sniff and point at the Colombian during the race. In response, Ramirez pointed back at Hinault repeatedly and said "Cocaine, cocaine... and marijuana too", insinuating the European's use of the substance. This exchange was widely reported in the Colombian press (first by the Espectador newspaper, and later in the book Escarabajos De la Vuelta A Colombia). This exchange is of great interest now that Laurent Fignon has admitted to doing substantial amounts of cocaine (particularly when racing in Colombia) in his book. In a recent interview, Lucho Herrera remembered the following about Fignon and the French cyclists of the time "He always spoke badly of us, and always said that we were inferior to them (the French.)" Years later, Lance Armstrong would tell the story of how his teammate Victor Hugo Peña would wear both leg and armwarmers in Europe, as a result of comments made by European riders about his dark skin.

But let's get back to the bigger picture, and the issue of a country and the stigma it had and continues to have. Ramirez' reaction to Hinault's taunting at the Dauphine Libere best encapsulates the manner in which Colombians have always felt about the drug trade and the negative image that came with it.

Martin Ramirez beat Hinault in the 1984 Dauphine Libere

Colombia was, and still is vilified for producing substances in order to supply a demand in other countries. Those countries, however, see no repercussions in their public image. Those nations that consume these Colombian products have never experienced the horrors that Colombia has. Murdered judges, civilians, journalists, and yes even cyclists. In one presidential election, three of the candidates were assassinated by drug lords. All of this was funded by the addictions and casual drug use of those in wealthier nations.

Pablo and his brother Roberto, the cyclist
Pablo Escobar was involved with cycling from his early days as a street thug. Cycling was a Colombian obsession, and Escobar collected bets for cycling races throughout Colombia as a young man. His first business was a small video rental/bike shop in Medellin. Pablo's brother, Roberto "Osito" Escobar was a talented professional cyclist who competed in both road and track events. It was through Robrto's connections in the world of cycling that Pablo began to use the sport for his own purposes. Although it may seem odd to some, Pablo always had aspirations of being a legitimate politician and actually got to be a Colombian Senator briefly. From the beginning of his first political campaign, he sponsored entire cycling teams as a way of advertising his candidacy.

Gonzalo Marin, a talented Colombian cyclist who rode for one of Escobar's teams (note his shorts.) This particular team was meant to support and spread the word about Escobar's legitimate political aspirations. Marin, sadly, was later assassinated by Escobar's men. [Picture scanned from Matt Rendell's book Kings of The mountains]

During the mid-80s Forbes Magazine named Escobar the 7th richest man in the world. With that kind of wealth, Pablo was able to indulge his every whim. Aside from funding cycling teams, Pablo also built velodromes, some of which were used to hold races so that he and his business associates could place bets on the races.

One of Escobar's velodromes, now in great disrepair, in the hills of Medellin.
[Picture scanned from Matt Rendell's book Kings of The mountains]

Escobar even claimed to have partially funded some of the earliest Colombian teams at the Tour de France, which would certainly be consistent with his heavy investment in other sports like soccer and auto racing. Although some investments were made by one of his companies (Grupo Inverca most notably), many of his contributions were made in his name. Through his connections to the sport, many cyclists and investors became involved in dealings with Escobar, and ultimately got on his bad side for one reason or another. Sometimes, the problems that cyclists faced with Escobar's men surrounded their unwillingness to be used as drug mules.

Pictured here with his family, Alfonzo Florez was the first Colombian to ever wear the Tour's polka dot jersey (in 1983), he also won the amateur Tour de France in 1982. Florez was gunned down by traffickers affiliated with Escobar in 1992.

Armando Aristizabal was part of the Cafe De Colombia team, and raced for the team in European races. His body was found outside Medellin in 1987. His hands were bound, he had been blindfolded, and his body showed signs of torture.

Traffickers used cyclists as mules, usually against their own will, under threat of their families being killed or hurt should they not comply. The cartel liked using cyclists due to their physical fitness, as well as to how accustomed they were to international travel. The fact that many of these cyclists were beloved and recognized at national airports was an added bonus. Juan Carlos Castillo was arrested at Medellin's airport with a shipment of cocaine. He was released and absolved from those charges, but was later found murdered in 1993.[Picture scanned from Matt Rendell's book Kings of The mountains]

On the right is Cochise Rodriguez, one of the most successful Colombian cyclists of all time. He won two Giro stages, partnered with Felice Giomondi in two-man trial events, was one of the first Colombians to compete in the Tour, and briefly held the one-hour record. Standing in the middle is Murillo Pardo, owner of Felipe Jewelers, and the team for which Cochise raced. Murillo's jewelery store was part of Escobar's money laundering operation. Murillo was murdered by the Cartel in 1986.[Picture scanned from Matt Rendell's book Kings of The mountains]

Rafael Tolosa (seen here wearing the king of the mountains jersey at the Vuelta a Colombia) was arrested at Bogota's airport in 2001 for having 125 heroin capsules in his stomach, as well as $50,000 worth of unlicensed emeralds in his luggage. Note the hat he's wearing, for the Felipe Jewelery store.

Even after Escobar's death, cyclists remained targets for other drug lords and guerrillas. Just today (Nov 10), a full Colombian/Venezuelan team was held and robbed at gunpoint by masked gunmen after having participated in the Vuelta Al Zuila. This sort of thing is now almost common. ONCE rider Oliverio Rincon, who was second in the Dauphine Libere in 93, won stages at the Tour, and was fifth at the Vuelta, was kindnaped in 2000. His family was extorted for a large sum of money and he was returned. This is particularly sad because Rincon had purposefully retired young with "just enough money to live comfortably in Colombia for the rest of my life", as he told his team mate Alex Zülle.

Only months after Rincon's kidnapping, Luis "Lucho" Herrera (seen here bloodied after a nasty fall at St Etienne) was kidnapped as well. Perhaps the best known Colombian cyclist of all time, Herrera won the Vuelta A España in 1987 and won the King Of The Mountains title in all three grand tours. He also won the Dauphine Libere.

Victor Hugo Peña is the only Colombian to have ever worn the Tour's yellow jersey. About two weeks before this picture was taken, Peña was robbed and held at gunpoint in his own home in Colombia. As part of the robbery, his passport and visa for the Tour were taken. Due to being a Colombian citizen, entering Europe is not easy, even as a tourist. Peña ended up riding the Tour illegally, with a tourist visa. This story is documented in the great book A Significant Other.

By far the absolute saddest episode in Colombian sports is that of Andres Escobar (no relation to drug trafficker Pablo Escobar), a beloved soccer player from Medellin. Andres Escobar scored on his own team's goal by accident during the 1994 World Cup. Colombia was disqualified from the World Cup as a result. Shortly after returning to Colombia, he was shot 12 times. He died instantly. Although the gunman alleged to have killed Escobar without anyone prompting him to do so, it was widely rumored that it was drug lords who had put a hit out on Escobar. The reason? Large amounts of lost money due to bets placed on the game. Why mention this horrible episode if it doesn't have to do with cycling? Well, I bring it up to further make a point (from previous posts) that pressures to perform and win are not the same for all athletes around the world. With this type of pressure (as well as the threat of true poverty) hanging over their head, do you think there may be more incentive or reason for some athletes to dope when they come from poor or unstable nations? Not making excuses here, just something to think about.

The bike

Pablo's brother, Roberto, continued to ride as his brother became one of the wealthiest and most feared men in the world. As a gift to his brother, Pablo funded an entire bike company and team. The name of the company was Ositto, a purposeful misspelling of Roberto's nickname (Osito, little bear). Roberto wanted the company to seem Italian, so he chose to add the extra "t".

The Ositto factory in Manizales, Colombia

Roberto Escobar was not just Pablo's brother as well as a cyclists. He himself was involved in many of his brothers dealings. He was arrested and briefly held in connection to the assassination of Lara Bonilla (who I mentioned at the beginning of this post). He was considered one of Pablos most feared lieutenants as well. As a bike company owner and team director, Roberto Escobar thrived. The Ositto cycling team was very successful, even winning the Clasico RCN (one of the most prestigious stage races in Colombia which has been raced by the likes of Laurent Fignon, Pascal Simon, Bernard Hinault and Sean Kelly.)

Team Ositto riders, along with their mascot and a podium girl.[Picture scanned from Matt Rendell's book Kings of The mountains]

His career in the world of cycling, however, was not to be. Roberto surrendered to police in 1992 for numerous charges (weapons violations, trafficking, extortion, kidnapping, illicit enrichment, connections to the death of 4000, and having escaped from the Catedral jail along with is brother). Once inside a maximum security prison in the town of Itagui, Roberto received a letterbomb from old rivals, which exploded only inches away from his face. The blast left him legally blind and partially deaf. Roberto now lives in a state-run hospital due to his severe injuries. His room is heavily guarded.

Roberto, signing autographs as a young cyclist on the left, and post letterbomb on the right.[Pictures scanned from Matt Rendell's book Kings of The mountains]

Having told you all this, the horrors that Escobar committed, and the cyclists he'll probably be surprised to know that the one bike frame I desire more than any other in the world is a Colombian made Ositto frame. The factory only existed for a few years during the 80's, and I have never seen one of their frames in person. I often mock those who want to ride lugged Italian frames because of their "soul" and heritage. At the same time, I must admit, I realize that the reason why I dream of owning an Ositto frame is because of what it embodies. As painful and absolutely difficult as those years were for Colombia, that frame signifies so much of what my childhood memories are. Yes, the man behind the company was deplorable, and I know this. The bombing that my brother and I experienced is enough to remind me of Escobar's character. Still, I long for home and continue to feel homesick after having lived in the United States for years. I go back to Colombia often, but I'm well aware that the saying "you can never go back home" really is true. Like it or not, the insanity that was Colombia during the 80's is a part of me, and having an Ositto bike would perhaps be the ultimate connection to my past, good and bad. It's the ultimate Colombian bike, so steeped in the bittersweet history that is so uniquely ours. Sad as it may seem, the whacked out notion of a bike company owned by Escobar's brother (and right hand man) is repulsive, but completely consistent with what my childhood memories are like. So if you see a guy riding an ill-fitting Ositto branded frame in your city someday, feel free to wave. It will probably be me, riding in order to feel more connected to my childhood, and the unusual circumstances under which I grew up.

Please feel free to leave comments behind.

If you are even remotely interested in learning more about this topic, please pick up a copy of Matt Rendell's book Kings Of the Mountains: How Colombia's Cycling Heroes Changed Their Nation's History. A documentary was made based on the book, but it only aired in England, and I've been unable to find a copy of it anywhere. Many of the pictures in this post came from that book.

Another great source (in Spanish) is Los Escarabajos De La Vuelta A Colombia.

Although I urge you to find out about the positive and beautiful aspects of Colombia, I also think that the greatest book about that era is News Of A Kidnapping, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Forget his fiction, this is a non-fiction account of a woman who was kidnapped during the early 90s at the request of Escobar. Marquez may be good at fiction, but his non-fiction writing is much, much better.


  1. Ive read News of a Kidnapping. Your right, its great. I know a few Colombians here in Barcelona, and they all had a really hard time getting here. Apparently having a Colombian passport is like having a sign around your neck saying "Do not let me into your country".

    Thanks for opening the comments up to anonymous types. I had so many witty comments to make about your Quer post. I know that bike shop off Placa Espania. Its one of the least functional businesses Ive ever walked into. The only reason to go there would have been to buy some OS straight bars and go back up Mont Juic and clock Thor Hushovd off the fucking podium with a blow to his perfect teeth.
    Cav may be an ass, but the green was HIS!

  2. As someone who lives and has always lived in a stable country, i don't relate with this post at all.
    That said, however, if Australia had an equivalent criminal figurehead, you can be sure his image and life style would have been adopted ironically bu hipsters by now.
    Also, tha story about Hinault made me angry. I knew he must have been a cock. Why do all champions have to be complete assholes? Jan Ullrich being the notable exception.

  3. Baked Ben,
    Yes, a Colombian passport is a huge problem, though other nationalities now have it even worse (middle eastern countries certainly). living in colombia, if you wanted to go to a vacation, you had to apply for a visa, wait a year and if approved go buy a ticket. the application for the visa alone would cost you more than the trip sometimes. many countries would simply not let you in. Regarding Mont Juic, I went up through the backside of it (near the convention center and the bay) in one of those rental Bici bikes. Those things weigh like 55 pounds! The last part, I admit, I actually did on a Brompton. I traded bikes with my brother. I was sweating like a madman. Neither bike was well suited for the climb.

    Regarding Hinault...he pretty much acted like all the French cyclists did at the time. Fignon was also known for messing with Colombians. Perhaps the dark skins, the relatively poor teams, small country, unknown didn't add up to a lovable package to some Europeans I guess.

    It's for this reason that many in the Colombian press were hesitant to believe Hinault's recent claim about his team being paid off to not attack the Colombians in the Vuelta. Who knows. Maybe it's time to start a poll about likable champions. Hampsten etc.

  4. Lucho this article is brilliant, I can't even imagine what this time was like. I believe my buddy would say that your Ositto frame would be your Unicorn.

    He was a Mustang motorhead, and once had for about 4 months his dream car, a '92 Mustang Cobra with nitrous and this kickass ever-changing green to black metalic paint job. He screwed up one night and burned the car and his granddad's house to the ground. He pulls out pictures every once in awhile and remembers the pain and pleasure.

    Good luck finding your mythical creature.

  5. You could have made this post much, much longer. It was a fascinating read.

    Great work.

  6. Great post!

    YES, please forget Gabriel Garcia Marquez's fiction. It's got nothing on his non-fiction!

    Like my brother I also have a colombian dream bike: an Arbar. Arbar made crappy bikes in the early 80s and my very first bike was a banana seat Arbar... unlike Ositto, the brand was actually well known, and I'm sure I'll get one one of these days.

    A note on the car bomb my bro referred to in the post, we actually were on our way to buy the latest issue of Metal Hammer on the side of the mall that the bomb went off in. If it wasn't cuz we got hungry and decided to eat first, we'd been right above the bomb. Scary to think, really.

    All that being said, Colombia is a pretty awesome country these days. Bogota is quite safe and I encourage people to go visit. I guarantee a good time.

    About Fignon and Hinault saying that they were paid off to lose the Vuelta: C'mon, dudes, do you think that if they wanted to buy a race, it wouldn't have been the Tour? And if it wasn't drug dealers, like Fignon claims, then don't you think Cafe de Colombia would have been better off buying better bikes and actually outfitting the team properly? I mean if you have enough money to pay someone off, don't you think you could afford better equipment? Still, even if it's all true (and I don't believe it at all), who are the bad guys here? Who's brought shame to the sport? I think it'd be the ones who decided to take the bribes. Nothing against French riders, but as a kid I always thought they had it out for the Colombians. I've been hoping that Sean Kelly will say something about it. He was running second, behind Herrera in that Vuelta before retiring. He was right there in the middle of it all. I wonder what he has to say about it all. Things that make you go hmmmmm...


  7. Cannibal, thank you for the kind words. It was much, much longer and i cut it down. i have trouble with being long-winded..and tried to cut down some stuff. mostly what i cut was not cycling related, but more horrible crap about the 80s. can you imagine 3 presidential candidates being asasinated during a preseidential election? it happened.

  8. i read 'killing pablo' by mark bowden about 10 yrs ago. intersting. any thoughts, lucho/skullkrusher?

    also, for more positive vibes regarding colombia, you should check out anthony bourdaine's show. it really depicts the country in a positive light, but at the same time doesnt shy from the historical aspect.

    and what do you guys think of the current govt, esp vis-a-vis the US and the south american countries w/ populist, 'leftist' govts?

  9. Regarding the accusations of Herrrera having bought the Vuelta:

    Perhaps I sound like I'm denial, but some things that have to be kept in mind are that Sean Kelly retired due to a saddle sore. this doesn't diminish the victory, but made it easier. also, and this is hugely important, the Postobon team (also all Colombian) worked for Herrera. He had TWO full teams working for him in the mountains. They've all talked about this openly. Two teams of the best climbers int he world helping him secure the yellow jersey in the mountain stages after Kelly retired. Think about it, winning was pretty likely.

    I really liked Killing Pablo, although I did find some flaws within it. He got some small things wrong, and failed to show any good sides of Colombia. Regarding his errors, there's an old saying in Bogota which is "you can always tell who the american journalist is, but you can't tell him anything". it sounds better in spanish, but the idea is that they have never wanted to listen to anything anyone has to say, and thus errors in their reporting become fact. Sgt D, who posts in our other blog (Metal Inquisition) read that book and said to me: I don't understand how you can be a sane and kind human being. You grew up in an environment where the social contract was non-existent, and up was down!" that may be partially true, but my family was pretty okay financially, and we were in a safe and stable environment...aside from the nutty stuff in the city and country.

    I thought the Bourdaine show was pretty good actually, pretty positive. He barely showed any civilized areas of Medellin..but still, it was a pretty accurate and upbeat portrayal.

    Lastly, my thoughts about the current government are extensive but i'll try to make it very quick. being born and raised in south america, i tend to have lefty-leaning tendencies. having said that, it sucks to realize that you have to play ball with the US to get ahead. Putting US bases in colombia and to the extent that Uribe is going is not my cup of tea. I hate it actually...but, he's the only one who's been able to deal with the guerrillas. it's not perfect...but in a country with such a wild history, you have to take the bad with the good.

    PS: Wore a new winter cycling jacket for my morning commute today. i usually take great pride in how great i am at blowing snot-rockets. not today. brand new jacket...whamo! right on the sleeve. damn it.

  10. interesting. i really like your 'norte americano' quote. ugly americans: still ugly even when they come from the cosmopolitan, intellectual class! def seems to be true...

    you say bourdaine didn't show any 'civilized areas of Medellin,' not really sure what this means. but if what i think you meant is true, isn't that bonus? if he highlights working-class areas and slums, and notes the huge decline in violence and narco-activity, does that not underscore the giant leap the country has made in the last decade? at least that's my reading of it.

    uribe seems mildly douche-y, but not nearly as bad as somoza/pinochet/d'aubuisson-arena/et al of the old days. i also tend left though im def not a big fan of chavez... but that said, he (hugo) is def in the right to make a giant stink about air-bases and such in colombia. consider the US' history in latin america (esp. nicaragua-- the subject of my senior thesis and about the totality of my knowledge of the region, notwithstanding a lot of mexican/central-american coworkers and friends )... for reals? it pisses ME off! 'course it should piss of any latin american...

    good look on snot rocketing on yourself. when i do that shit, i usually immediately look up to see if someone saw...

    i learned of CI through MI, which i learned of through BSNYC. love extreme music and cycling, and never thought the twain would meet. imagine my surprise/delight! and i def love reading sgt d as he often posts about hardcore and its related genres (e.g., powerviolence). cool.

    hinault-- not a fan, but dont hate him. as a 30 yr old american (read: norte/US), at that time i only knew of lemond (huge then as armstrong is now) and hampsten. i mean, i grew up riding bikes, but this was the genesis of real, internationally competitive US cycling, and thus was a bit off the map for most of us; i don't imagine most here penetrated the nascent US cycling scene much further than we did/do futball/football/soccer (at least not 6-9 yr olds). ummm... anyway, i know many people feel really strongly about hinault, and esp about '86. all i can say is that ive read interviews w/ hampsten where he basically goes off on how nice/awesome/willing to school younger riders hinault was. and he also has a diff. take on '86 than does lemond. dont know what to think, except that hampsten ranks among the class acts in the pro peleton; dude is prolly in a class of his own!

    fml (thans sarge for the 'regret-core post)

  11. dZa,
    don't want to go too deeply into Nicaraguan history, and US intervention into latin american politics...but as you know it has been extensive. we can thank the US for the dictators we all had. this is now something the US admits to having done. It set all our countries, and our genuine chance at democracy, back by like 25 years or more. if any american ever wonders why poor and disadvantaged latin americans want to leave their countries and come to yours, look no further than the instability that the US created. enough of that.

    bourdaine show, as with most, seems to focus on the lower classes. i understand this is his idea of "legitimate culture" in a country...but this is a mistake that wealthier visitors usually make. it would be like making a show about how great NYC is, and only filming in the Marcy Projects. There is more, and US cameras never want to show people who are not poor or poorish.

    Hinault, one cool thing that i heard about him was that he never took full prize money. always split all of it with the team, knowing that he needed them. i guess at the time, that was very rare. saw him at the tour podium this year in Barcelona. the guy is running around, going backstage and fetching the stuffed animals for the dudes getting jerseys. it was embarrassing.

  12. Really enjoyed this post. Thank you. I must mention a difference I have with much of the talkback though. It seems that most folks are forgetting that the US and USSR were waging a proxy war in Latin America. If one wishEs to blame us (US) for bad outcomes that is fine and in many respects fair (personally I despise realpolitik), but it is intellectually dishonest to ignore the USSR's goal of creating a communist cordon around the US and our NEED to prevent this for ourselves and for humanity's sake (if you doubt this then read more about Soviet and Eastern bloc life, humanity was what was lacking). As for drugs, we (again the US), owe south and central america a huge debt for exporting our prohibition based violence to you.

  13. Anonymous,
    I see your point. if the US had intrests in latin america, the soviet union surely did too. I agree, they also (in a different way) had a hand in our instability but to my knowledge there is no proof of soviet involvement when it comes to the most popular leaders that were murdered or in other ways taken out of latin american countries, only to be replaced by american backed dictators. even if there had been, american interjection would merely negate our autonomy...but this is not even worth arguing about. we have never been seen as actual nations, but rather tiny little joke countries who can barely manage ourselves. this continues today. to be honest, i had not really thought about soviet intrests in latin america, so you are certainly right there...but i also feel that autonomy is a right that we have never known.

  14. Wonderful blog. I loved "Noticias de un Secuestro." Keep writing.

  15. Saludos Lucho,

    Absolutely brilliant piece of work. After spending two regretful years behind the scenes at the pinnacle of professional cycling, it still amazes me how seedy the sport is, and has been.

    Que vaya bien

  16. Okay, so my book suggestion had an effect. You're welcome. The solution of course to that pesky "length" problem is to go ahead and write the book. Just write something about the encouragement you received from a literary domestique during stage 3 or so,or would that upset the order of things? Never mind, it seems others in the peloton are working hard to create some draft for you.
    By the way, GGM's non-fiction is better than his fiction?!?!?!. I don't read Spanish so I'm disqualified from the start, but I will take you up on that, gladly.

  17. His non-fiction is available in english. check it out. News Of A Kidnapping, Story Of A Shipwrecked sailor, and Clandestine in Chile.

  18. Excellent article. I think it's positive that despite it all you are able to talk and think about Escobar as opposed to pretending the 80s didn't exist.

  19. Tour Medellin,

    Gracias, siempre trato de decir la verdad...pero tambien mostrar lo positivo de Colombia.

  20. Great article! i had no idea about the cycling connection. i am a United States citizen and I travel to Medellin often. I love Colombia.

  21. les woon(england)
    i stumbled across your wonderful article whilst looking up roberto's ositto bikes on the web as i've just read his book 'escobar' in which he writes about his life with his brother,in which he often talks about his cycling buisness/career.
    i also visited colombia early last year for a month and found them to be very freindly and we often found ourselves drinking rum in a square somewhere,wherever we were.
    our colombian skipper on the sailing trip from panama to cartegena told us that "when colombians are bad,theyre very bad but generally they are the nicest people you'll meet" we never met any bad one's just good.
    cheers les

  22. les,
    glad you enjoyed the post. cartagena is a beautiful place, as is pretty much all of colombia. please pass on the good word to your friends and family. we need more people outside of colombia letting others know how wonderful of a country it is.

  23. Good blog. QUite good research. Some of the same was confirmed by the Cartel de los Sapos book.


  24. Ya vieron el extraño video que aparecio en youtube donde un psiquico se comunica durante 1 hora con el mismisimo espiritu de Pablo Escobar donde cuenta los autores intelectuales del asesinato de Galan, su relacion con Alvaro Uribe, sus caletas ocultas, mejor dicho esuchenla completa porque dura 1 hora. La encuentran como: Entrevista al Espiritu de Pablo Escobar


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