Thursday, April 3, 2014

An unlikely love for Flanders, and the death of Rigoberto's father

First, a quick reminder that I'm taking pre-orders for black Cycling Inquisition jerseys. All orders must be in by April 10. More details here.

Photo courtesy of Giovanni Jimenez
As the Tour of Flanders approaches, and I see that Dayer Quintana will be at the race, I can't help but think of Giovanni Jimenez. He was the first Colombian to ever turn professional, and he lived for these type of races. Unlike your average Colombian climber, Jimenez excelled in the cobbles, the cold rain, and the short but steep pitches found throughout Flanders. In 1973, when only 37 riders finished the Tour of Flanders (out of 174 starters), Giovanni was there, the only rider in the bunch who was not European. He finished 32nd. To this day, his love for Flanders runs so deep, that he's still there. He lives just outside of Brussels, with his wife, and continues to ride on the very roads where races like the Tour of Flanders take place.

I wrote about his life story for Cycle Sport magazine, and you can now read the article here.

Photo: Cyclingnews
When I interviewed Rigoberto Uran a while back, I tried my best to ask him about a very delicate subject, the assassination of his father back in 2001. Rigoberto was, of course, short on details, and despite wanting know more, I knew to back off during our conversation. In an interview with El Tiempo (which I was alerted of by Matt Rendell), Rigoberto gives details about his fathers passing, perhaps for the first time. It's an awful story, but one I share with you because it gives greater context to Rigoberto's life, his past, and the harsh reality that helped shape him.

How did the death of your father Rigoberto come about?
Urrao was a town that was really hit very hard by violent armed groups. Paramilitaries, guerrillas...the works. We lived through a war in which many innocent people were killed, hard working people. One of those individuals was my dad, who died in August of 2001. One morning he went out to train on his bike, and they had set up an illegal road block. That's where he was taken, and he was later assassinated. 

What happened?
We've been told that he was one of three people that were killed. These paramilitaries took three people from the traffic stop on the road, and forced them to help steal some livestock from a large farm, and afterward, they were killed.

And that's the conclusion, based on what you know of the events?
Yes, because my father didn't have any problems with anyone in Urrao. He was a kind person that everyone knew. He owed nothing to no one, he just worked. So that's the information we got from the people in that area. 

And that's how you became the head of the household, the father figure of your family?
Yes, and it was very hard because I was so attached and devoted to my father. I kept working, doing his job, which was selling lottery tickets on the street. I did that because it was effective work, and I did that until 2002.


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