Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ridiculously battered, but still eager to race

Pedro Nel Gil (Photo: El Colombiano)

Pedro Nel Gil was part of Colombia's first generation of well-known and beloved cyclists. Pictured here after a Vuelta a Colombia stage, he would go on to place third in two Vueltas a Colombia (1951 and 1952). During those races, his mother lovingly followed him through punishing terrain in the back of an open-deck truck.

Such was Nel Gil's fighting spirit (he once finished third in a Vuelta a Colombia stage with several broken bones in his hand, and a dislocated shoulder), that he was the first to inspire a young Ramon Hoyos to compete in a bike race. And Hoyos did just that. Surprisingly, however, Hoyos decided to do so right then and there.

In the late 1940s and early 50s Ramon Hoyos was an aspiring cyclist, and like many others, he loved seeing bike races. In one occasion, he went the town of Rionegro to see the Doble A Santa Rosa de Osos race. As Tito Gallo and Pedro Nel Gil went by, fighting for first place, other fans were content with merely watching the duel. Ramon Hoyos wasn't. He remembers being absolutely overcome with emotion. He too wanted to race, and he couldn't contain himself any longer.

As with all Colombian races that had the word "Doble" in their title, this one was a "there and back" affair. So as Nel Gil and Tito Gallo came back through, Hoyos broke down. He got on his bike, and joined them. His dream of competing was coming true, albeit in a strange manner.

Despite his fresh legs, Hoyos was unable to drop his makeshift competitors. Instead, as the group reached the finish line, an inexperienced Hoyos crashed into the back of a team car that stopped suddenly. His already sub-par bike, which had cost him an unbelievable amount of money, was now ruined. According to Hoyos himself, he looked "ridiculously battered", and quickly realized that he'd gotten involved in something that he had no business in. He went home feeling ashamed and defeated, but still eager to race.

Without even knowing it, Pedro Nel Gil had managed to inspire Ramon Hoyos, a man who would shortly thereafter become one of the greatest Colombian cyclists, as well as being the inspiration for the term "escarabajo".


  1. I love that name "Pedro Gil." I've actually seriously considered naming my kid that. No joke.

  2. What is that weird looking thing in Pedro's left hand? Those are some interesting looking MTB-like shorts. Also what happened to his left leg? It looks like blood running down the leg even into his sock. Cool old picture ...

  3. Anonymous,
    In his hand is a small bouquet of flower, as stage winner. On his leg is blood from a fall during that stage in the Vuelta a Colombia. And indeed those are unusual shorts, and check out his shoes. No real cycling clothing was available in Colombia then, and most riders used tshirts even at the highest level of the sport, nothing else was available.

    1. Ha, I never would have guessed flower bouquet. But anyway thanks for the insight into Colombian cycling back in those days. This blog is unique and more interesting than most, you do a fantastic job.

    2. Thank you for the very kind words (takes bow).

  4. Este articulo habla de tiempos muy remotos cuando el ciclismo empeso en Colombia como un deporte national y Pedro Nel Gil fue uno the los pioneros en el departamento de Antioquia,sin entrenador ni bicicletas de carreras o ropa apropiada. Todo era improvisado a la manera que ellos mismos desidieran. En esas condisiones se corrio la primera buelta a Comombia en 1950


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