Monday, January 31, 2011

Everyone hide! The Colombians are coming! (and they want your jobs)


Based on personal experience, I can tell you that some Americans are very troubled by us latino folk. They are particularly bothered by our northbound migratory patterns into the United States, and the possibility that we may take their jobs. I first became aware of this when my high school girlfriend's father told me the following after he'd had a few beers one Sunday:

"You people are coming here, taking our jobs. God damnit, one of these days, you hispanics in the United States will outnumber us humans."

After he said this, he laughed out loud. He'd cracked himself up actually. He laughed so hard, that I don't think he heard me quietly state that the preferred nomenclature was actually "latino".

It was with memories of that Sunday afternoon in my mind that I read the news stories regarding a recent UCI statement (also here). In case you haven't read the news, this story largely revolves around the fact that us latinos (Colombians to be specific) might be taking some American jobs in the coming year. In the statement, the UCI is more or less saying that the top Continental teams from the Americas (that includes South America) have to be invited to races like the Tour of California and the Quiznos Pro Challenge. I say "more or less" because I have the reading comprehension of a cinder block. I should also mention that a "Quiznos Challange" sounds less like a bike race, and more like the challenge you are faced with when you have to actually eat one of that company's disgusting sandwiches without throwing up violently during the entire process.

Violent, projectile vomiting aside... this UCI mandate could once again start an interesting era in Colombian cycling. Though the sport has changed since the early 80s (when Colombian teams first started to terrorize American and European riders during mountain stages), the prospect of having Colombia's EPM/Une and Movistar teams racing here could bring back memories of when Patricinio Jiminez won the Coors Classic in 1982. Look, I understand why American teams are not very keen on this idea, since they didn't even know this rule existed. Their sponsors won't be happy, particularly when there are so few races in the United States that can get them the publicity and exposure they are paying for. In their eyes, a team from Colombia who is sponsored by the public works of Medellin racing the Tour of California seems downright insane, at least from a sponsorship point of view. But from a sporting point of view? I guess we'll find out. That is, if all this does in fact happen. You could argue that if those American teams would eventually race in South America, they would get more points and move up the rankings...or whatever it is they need to do in order to be above Colombian teams like EPM/Une (again, I have the reading comprehension of a regurgitated Quiznos sandwich). But I'd like to see how sponsors at companies like Kelly Benefit Strategies and Jelly Belly would respond to being told that their teams need to go to Colombia to race the Vuelta A Boyaca. A race they've never heard of, in a department they've never heard of, in a country they may barely know about. So to be fair, I guess what my high school girlfriend's dad said was true. We're coming north, we're taking American jobs, and we're starting trouble. Typical Colombians. Additionally, its worth mentioning that we don't die. We multiply.

Patrocinio Jimenez at the Coors Classic.

But let me get back to the two Colombian teams in question, because I should clarify that when I say "Team Movistar", I'm referring to the Colombian team, not the European one that uses the electronic Campagnolo doodads. See, there's two teams with the same sponsor. This means that the Colombian Movistar, could be racing against the European Movistar team in the United States. Oh, and I should point out that European/Spanish Movistar team has one Colombian rider. And the Colombian Movistar team has one rider from this is like a cycling version of the M.C. Escher poster you had in your college dorm room. This whole thing will give American commentators a debilitating headache during races, and will leave fans rather confused. They'll be as confused as I was the first time I watched that one Star Trek episode where there was a good Captain Kirk, and a bad Captain Kirk...and the only difference was how their hair was combed. And how the bad one was lit from underneath. Subtle differences to be sure, but important ones. Perhaps the Tour Of California organizers (the ones who were unable to transmit multiple stages of the race in the last few years), and Versus (the ones who broke from live coverage for NHL pre-game broadcasts) will get it together, and light the teams accordingly so we can tell them apart.

Bad Movistar, and good Movistar

By the way, in case you're wondering, the Colombian Movistar team would be the evil one. Not the European one. This is because we Colombians are not trusted anywhere, because the European team has a larger budget, and also because the Colombian team has the Spaniard Oscar Sevilla. Yes. This means that Oscar Sevilla could once again end up at the Tour of California, after having been left out that one year.

Sevilla wearing the leader's jersey at this year's Vuelta A Colombia.

Although I see how this is all very hard for American teams and their sponsors. I, for one, am all for it. Albeit for selfish reasons. How will Colombian riders from small teams do against the European and American competition? How will they perform, when you consider that cycling is their life, their only way out of the neighborhoods and small villages they come from, and they have nothing else to fall back on. Will the Colombian's climbing abilities be as dominating as they were in races throughout the United States and Europe in the 80s? Let's find out. Amazing and unexpected things could happen.

In the meantime (and at the risk of coming off like the Leopard-Trek folks), please make sure you spell the name of the country correctly. If you hate the fact that this is all happening. If you hate Colombian teams, or Colombians in general...that's fine. But if you choose to write about this topic, just remember:

It's Colombia...not Columbia. With an "o", not a "u".

A bit more on the subject

Last year, I wrote a post about the topic of Colombian riders and teams who first ventured out of their country to race abroad, and how they were received.
This seems pertinent as a new generation of Colombian riders may possibly be racing outside of their country for the first time. In writing this, I was particularly interested in how Colombian riders—regardless of their accomplishments—were usually referred to as "the Colombians" by the press. Even years after the original influx of Colombian riders in the 1980s.

"The Colombians"

The first Colombian cyclists who made it to Europe in the early 1980s often spoke about the levels of isolation they endured. They were misunderstood, they felt radically out of place, and in some cases they were openly mocked within the peloton. Their dark complexions, indigenous features, and short statures made them stand out in a sea of light-skinned Europeans and Americans. In the 1984 Dauphine Libere, which Colombian Martin Ramirez won, Bernard Hinault openly mocked Ramirez as TV cameras were close by, screaming out "Cocaine, cocaine!" as he pretended to sniff and point at the Colombian during the race. The peloton laughed. 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). Although this could be taken as an isolated case of simple joking around within the peloton, Lucho Herrera believed otherwise. In a recent interview, he said the following in reference to the treatment they received from European riders, Fignon in particular:

"He always spoke badly of us, and always said that we were inferior them [the French/Europeans]"

Even more information about how Fignon in particular treated Colombian riders upon his death. You can read more about those comments here.

One of "the Colombians", racing at the Coors Classic.

It's with these comments, and with the accounts of Colombian riders from the era that I often stare at pictures of races from that era which may contain any Colombians. Their bikes and clothing were different, often sub-par (particularly in the early 80s). Their team cars were staffed by their mothers. Culturally, they were out of their element, and many of the other riders let them know this. Notable exceptions to this kind of treatment were always hailed by the Colombian press, and its for that reason that Andy Hampsten continues to be thought of so highly by Colombian cycling fans. He famously treated Colombian riders with respect, spoke to the Colombian media and even referred to the Colombians by name...a rarity even to this day. The media noticed this, and praised Hampsten accordingly.

Herrera and Hampsten in 1987. Herrera still using toe clips.

I remember hearing mentions about the fact that Colombian riders were often not referred to by name in the international media back then. Sure enough, as I was watching the TV coverage of the Coors Classic races from back then just weeks ago, I noticed how they generically spoke of "the Colombians" in the race, even when a single rider was in a breakaway. No names were ever used. They were simply "the Colombians." Perhaps I'm oversensitive (I'm open to that possibility), but this was consistent with the media reports I heard as a kid, and proved how one of the symptoms of the lack of respect that riders experienced was in fact correct. Similarly, Bob Roll generically refers to "some Colombians" at races like the Coors Classic in his second book many times. Everyone else in his accounts has a name, but not the Colombians. They are a generic mass, a faceless group. While this could be attributed to their relative newness to the peloton, one has to keep in mind that this was the attitude at the Coors Classic by the mid and late 80s, when Colombian Patrocinio Jimenez had already won the race in 1982. They were not new within the peloton, and their victories had accumulated impressively trough the years by that point. Winning stages and jerseys at the Tour, the Giro, the Vuelta. Winning the Coors Classic, the Dauphine. It didn't matter.

They were just the Colombians.



  1. i talked about the possibility of these teams being in the tour of california on my podcast. the interesting thing is that the one "real" colombian team (pro-continental)Colombia es Pasion/Cafe de Colombia, would be left out. hehe.

    another thought, "the russians" were always "the russians" when the soviets participated in any sport in the 80s, especially in the olympics. also, when the 7-eleven team first went to europe they were "the americans". how sad that they (for example, bob roll), went on to do the same to "the colombians"

  2. Podium!!!
    Another way to look at it (since I enjoy the role of contrarian) is that those riders were given the chance to represent their homeland. Being referred to as colombians was emphasized because in the eyes of many Americans and europeans this was a chance to attribute something positive to Colombia and change stereotypes rather than reinforce them. I have also become of soccer and what I notice from soccer announcers is that they also often refer to individual players as Brazilian, Ivorian, Dutchman etc. Andit is not a disrespectful expression. Cycling and soccer are two sports that have a lot of nationalism built into it. I love Armstrong, Levi, hincappi, etc not just because they are great but because they are American and great and their Victories in Europe are not just personal accomplishments but also usa's accomplishments. I have alot of pride when an American leads a group up a mountain or scores a goal and the announcer cites their nationality. I hope u couldalso feel some pride at the mentioning of a Colombian nationality as the rider schools some elite Europeans on a breakaway.
    Btw Freddy montero is one of my favorite MLS players. May I ask which Colombian soccer teams u support? The season is just about to begin and I am curious. Thanx

  3. Anonymous,

    Glad you got a podium spot. Not very hard to do around here. I see your point, it could be seen either way. By the way, many Colombians claim Hincapie as one of their (our?) own. He's full-blooded Colombian.

    I'm a proud supporter of Millonarios...a team that had its amazing years, and who still hold a place in my heart. My brother is a supporter of America, from the city of Cali...not the team from Mexico with the same name.

  4. DUDE! freddy montero IS awesome and a really, really nice guy. too bad he plays for a crappy team. ooooh!

  5. Ewww. I'm from pennsylvania but still I gotta give some respect to a team with back to back US Open Cup titles and most definitely the best soccer culture in the USA. Keep it up seatle u and Freddy will continue to be role models for other cities on how to passionatly embrace soccer. And I should tie in cycling somehow before I go so..... I am loving this winter cycling. I am not going for long rides but am able to do all the commuting I was during the rest of the year. Reading your posts at the beginning of winter helped inspire me to keep gong all year round. All I need are some good warm gloves and ear protection ( I use the cut off sleeves from old t shirts which I slide on to my head and fold once over my ears and that works great and is cheap) and a single layer covering my arms and within 3 mnutes riding I'm warm and 6 mnutes I'm sweating--in the middle of January I'm sweating riding a bike with a single layer on my torso!!!!! Thanx for being a role model. Maybe 40 miles a week. Thanx for keeping me in moderate shape over this snowy winter.

  6. I welcome the chance to watch ColOmbian riders in the U.S.

    I just don't want that driveway fetish catching on here, OK?

  7. Boring boring Arsenal...Who cares what the Frogs think? Bastards.

  8. Lucho - I'm loving your blog and especially this latest post. I'm hoping I had some influence???:

    It's funny how intimidated Americans are by the thought of having to share their "beloved" stage-race w/ their South American's like white-flight, pt. 2 - lol.

    -Fan De Soler

  9. jim from the other day a few weeks ago(which is months ago now) that wasn't the other Jim that makes post referencing jokes when appropriateFebruary 2, 2011 at 7:44 PM

    When I have a driveway you can bet that mofo is getting waxed.

    VERY waxed.

    When I'm done with that I'm going to start a stage race and invite all the Colombian teams to kick the shit out of all the crummy domestic squads full of spoiled video game playing 20 year olds that live in Moms basement because earning 3K a year is "pro" and since "I'm a pro-madonna I can't be bothered to get a part-time job and besides how else am I going to facebook all my peeps and make video edits for the twateronis if I'm working."
    This obviously excludes the dozen guys out there that DO have part-time jobs and busted their ass to get there.
    You guys are on your way good luck.
    The rest of you brace yourselves.

    You will not survive the 'Murican Localized Tour presented by Beisbol.

    And I'm out!

  10. dude said "...presented by Beisbol" - LMFWAO!!!

    one more thought: don't take this wrong coming from a Gringo b/c I mean nothing but respect...but shouldn't the UCI also mandate that the 3 top-rated podium girls are also invited from Colombia? (also no offense Fly V/Steve Cozza!)

  11. "presented by Beisbol"

    you sir, have hit it out of the park. thank you.

    Colombian podium girls. I like that idea. no disrespect. I second the motion.

  12. one last thing... a little bit of a devil's advocate, if you will... these colombian teams may actually not be very good. just sayin'...

  13. As a member of your "selective" readership I feel obligated, nay entitled, to share my observations on the direction of your blog. I get that your proud of your heritage and obviously had to put up with a lot of BS growing up as an immigrant wherever you did in the states. but I gotta say your blog is getting really, really heavy on Colombian content compared to the more global approach I appreciated in posts from the past. Now I love Colombia, or at least what I have learned from watching Romancing The Stone several times, I also love many other nations and enjoy hearing about their contributions to the world of professional speed biking, but with my short attention span my limit is truly finite. Maybe I'm totally f'ed in that I missed the preamble in which you cautioned that your blog is "all Colombia, all the time", but from the heart I have to tell you it's starting to resemble the on-line equivalent of Versus, with a ColUmbian spin on things. I'm just sayin' Mike

  14. Hello Anonymous,

    From the beginning of the blog, the tone and subject matter has varied widely. Sometimes serious, sometimes funny...perhaps not always great or even good. I guess it's schizophrenic, and depends on my mood that day. As for the preamble in which I sated that it would be "all Colombia, all the time", it's right at the top of the right-hand column of the blog.

  15. hey man,
    just stummbled upon your sight..i worked with norberto caceres at a bike shop in san diego,ca.way back in the late 80's,apparently he was a pretty respected rider in colombia and did well in a few international races..greg lemond use to call the shop from time to time to say hello...i ended up marrying a colombian woman from bogota years later and frequent colombia as often as we can..if you know colombian rock music then you may know her band she sang in and was quite successful with; pasaporte..elsa's my ole lady.
    cool site,i'll check out more soon.

    1. I remember Norberto training me with the San Diego Bicycle Club back in 86' and 87'...He was quite a climber at the time.

  16. Hello, I'd like to say that this was a very interesting post. I'd heard about the UCI rule when it came out in the news, however, I didn't know of the interesting parts about two Movistar teams and the interchange of a Spaniard and a Colombian. I'd love to see a South American team at the Tour of Amgen!

  17. Hello Lucho, I am working on my family Genogram. Race, ethnicity and subcultures are important in bringing it together. My father being a Colombian cyclist and my brother being a professional U.S cyclist, I did a search for Colombian and cycling and your blog came up. You can understand why your sight really perked my interest. Not being a cyclist myself and actually hating it for a big part of my life. I disassociated from it all together and chose not to keep up with the sport, due to my family’s obsession for the sport. I was quite the Anarcho-punk type that rejected all that was forced on me.
    I am also very proud to be Colombian. Of course I enjoy people of all ethnicities, but find that Colombians are totally nuts in a super awesome way, but very driven, intelligent and extremely charismatic to say the least. Maybe why we are loved and feared in kinda schizophrenic way. Compliments on your blog ;-D

  18. Katherine,
    Thank you for the kind words. Don't know if you'll check back to see this reply to your comment...but just in case, here it goes.
    Funny you should mention the anarcho-punk background, since I too spent a good bit teens and twenties steeped in that stuff, along with hardcore music. It's funny how we all come around to some the things we disliked during our youth, which were part of our upbringing. Lastly, I have to ask...your brother wouldn't happen to be one "Fast" Fred Rodriguez would he? If so, please send me an email (address under the contact portion on the top right). I've been trying to hung Fred down for two years to interview him, all to no avail.

  19. When i was ten a little Belgian boy, İ adored the 'Colombians'. İ only knew Herrera and Parra but i cheered as loudly as another 'Colombian' left the pack. Altough i couldn't believe my eyes in a mountain stage a Colombian hat to let go. They were superhumans in my eyes. İn the mountains ofcourse. The only game i play on pc is Cycling manager with ..........Colombia es passion. Duarte won the Tour two times.
    But seriously i am waiting for the first Colombian to achieve this, and i am not the onşy whitey who is a 'Colombian' supporter.
    A Belgian in Turkey (cycling wasteland)

  20. Koen,
    Thank you so much for your comment. this is wonderful to hear. if you felt that way, can you imagine how those of us in colombia felt? it was a wonderful time.

  21. Can you imagine if......
    The Colombians of the eighties had the same 'goodies' as LeMond and Hinault ?
    And i am not talking about clickpedals.

    A whole team was outside the time limit (lotto)
    The poor guys desillusionized became carpenters and roofers again. One returned to cycling and is still winnimg races at the age of 42 (Niko Eeckhout).
    A decently 'prepared' Herrera......
    İ have no info about what was happening in Colombia as extra 'vitamins'. Maybe its better my pre-adolescent sport hero's remain like they were. The Condors of the Alpes.
    Btw have you seen Contador's style in the giro??
    Pure doing the Lucho-dance

    Love from a cycing wasteland

  22. Anonymous,
    I've never heard of, or seen any sign of LeMond using "goodies", that would certainly be news to be. I dont mean to sound naive, as I know how prevelant it is in the sport (and was) but Lemond, but all accounts, seemed clean. I'm sure some Colombians took some stuff...but when you look at the facts it all ads up. They lived and trained at altitude, at a time when few even understood what that meant. they were they climbed well, and got dropped like stones in flat stages and TTs. nothing weird there.

  23. İts Koen again, thanx for this opinion, which i take in high esteem, regarding your knowledge.
    Can you help me with a site to follow the Colombians (races, young talents). My hope is on Rujano (ok not Col. but close enough) and Duarte for some firework in the future. What has Duarte coming tourwise ? This year he's BAD-Geox (liked the captain Kirk-thing) so no tour. Any others rising stars on the Columbian firnament?
    And for LeMond i spoke to fast....guılty by association. Liked him too. They were in my youth the first wave of aliens. Him and Hampsten.
    Those ADR-days.... when you could still win the tour being sponsered by some semi-legal handcraft villagefactory.

    Love from a cycling wasteland
    BTW cycling in Ankara (there's a killer piece in that one)

  24. Koen,
    As for Lemond and such...who knows. Maybe we never will, but I guess we can just take the information that's out there.
    I have a friend who is a cyclist here in the US, and grew up in Ankara. He was a kid then, and didnt really ride much. But the way he describes it, I would love to go. I definately plan on visiting in the next few years. top of the list for sure.
    As for sites regarding colombian cycling, here are a couple. they are in spanish, but you can run them through translators

    and two pages for the Colombia es Pasion team

    As for Rujano, since you have concerns about doping, you should know that he was caught doping in Colombia in 2003 and suspended briefly. No one knows what the test was positive for. Hush hush. For rising talent, keep an eye on Jarlinson Pantano, Nairo Quintana and Sergio Luis Henao, rumored to be signing to Sky in 2012. the great thing about the Colombia Es Pasion team is that they have a very thorough blood passport program of their own (though the level they race at doesn't even require their riders to be part of the UCI pasport program). they do this in part so that euro teams that may want to sign them, will know they are clean, and there will be no hesitations. The interest in Henao shows this.


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