Egan, Nairo, Rigo: the Vanity Fair of the Tour Colombia | Cycling | Sports

Four years later, a pandemic and several crises in the meantime, the Tour Colombia takes place again (six stages, from Tuesday 6 to Sunday 11, from Paipa to Bogota via Boyacá, Cundinamarca and la Sabana) and on Sunday before the night presentation The teams at the beautiful Plaza Bolívar, in Tunja, turn into a small vanity fair when the stars take the stage in search of glory that passes quickly. In competition, Nairo Quintana, the man of the house, who returns to competition in his hometown, on the very day of his 34th birthday; Egan Bernal, the prodigy of Zipaquirá, two years have passed since the accident that almost cost him his life and forced him to undergo endless rehabilitation, and the paisa Rigo Urán, a novel character who knew how to person how to invent the best way to communicate, to build it. Only the revered English sprinter Mark Cavendish, a great foreign figure, can dispute their success. After collecting applause and cheers, and internally measuring their weight among the supporters, they all pass through a second stand, where they are received by the federation and political leaders, then they finish a little – the cold breeze sweeps across the square when the sun sets. — they hug and kiss with their family, and disappear.

A group of troveros improvises a few verses, a few rhymes, and upon hearing his name, old Patrocinio Jiménez, pioneer of Tour 83 and Teka of the time, gets excited and, as hard as he is, he even pours out a tear. in the shadow of the statue of the Liberator which sparked the struggle for the independence of Boyacá.

Not as surprising as it may seem to be in the territory of the Nairo who returns from exile, the popularity contest is not won by the local, nor is Egan, the only Colombian who arrived in Paris in yellow during the Tour de France, in 2019, but Rigo wins, and people chant his name and he speaks like he always speaks, fast and funny, and everyone laughs. “Colombia is a country of novels,” explains a fellow journalist. “And the most watched on television these months is the one that tells the story of Rigo’s life.” The adventures of the poor boy from Urrao, in Antioquía, son of a street lottery seller who died in an episode of violence that dominated the country in the 90s, who becomes a cyclist and marries the daughter of the richest man of his city, dominate the conversation in homes and discourage certain sports journalists, who would like to write serious things and are forced by their bosses to write about the problems that afflict Rigo’s mother-in-law, for example, on the eve of the broadcast of the corresponding episode. Rigo, the oldest of them all (he just turned 37), is the only one to have made the leap from fame as a cyclist to being himself, and he no longer cares so much about his cycling career , that there is one year left, that its popularity, and the reels The hilarious and tender stories he shares on his Instagram go viral as soon as they are published.

Nairo Quintana, with his Movistar, during the presentation.Press/Colombia Tour

Secondly, the return from exile of the village boy, Nairo, banned for a year, a hidden sanction in the form of a Gentlemen’s Agreement, in the WorldTour peloton for having taken tramadol, an opiate analgesic. And what neither his rivals nor the mountains could make him tremble was the impossibility of racing with the best, as is his right, until Movistar saved him, the team he made great and with which he became great.

Nairo is the father of the exhausted generation. 11 years ago, Nairo Quintana revived the cycling faith in Colombia, dormant since the days of Lucho Herrera and Fabio Parra, in the late 80s. The farmer from Tunja, Boyacá deep, short and strong, beginner aged 23, competed courageously head to head against all of Sky and their untouchable Chris Froome. He finished second, best climber, best junior. And on his return to Colombia, he spoke about the peace process and the problems of the peasants of his country, and he cycled through the territories still wounded by the fighting between the guerrillas, the army, the paramilitaries, the villages recently released, and these days he talks about the forest fires burning arid Colombia because of climate change, and asks people to be aware.

Nairomania, which grew a year later, in 2014, when Nairo was the first Colombian to win the Giro d’Italia, embraced a generation of cyclists, Chaves, Urán, Egan, Higuita, Gaviria, Superman López , Dani Martínez, envied by all. around the world, and even Dave Brailsford, Sky’s engineer, launched a takeover bid to, through a team sponsored by the Colombian government, be able to control all the talent coming from this country where cycling is the sport king. His idea didn’t work. Jim Ratcliffe, the Ineos millionaire, gave him what he wanted, then came the hard years of Colombian cycling.

In a market set up around the square, Rigo brand products (Go Rigo Go!) are sold and almost exhausted, t-shirts, jerseys, shorts, bicycles and the Nairo Quintana brand, caps, sweaters, t-shirts , nikis and coffee bags illustrated with his photo in pink jersey.

This is Colombian cycling today, the most popular sport in the world, returning cyclists and cyclists saying goodbye, and a tireless fan base hungry for new tricks. And a new youngster, Diego Pescador, from Quimbaya, Quindío, in the coffee region, turned 19 in December, a climber who surprises with his intensity, his strength and his need to run, a Colombian-style Pogacar, and he aspires to continue his mark, now fills his void with his shadow, and he feels capable of it. And it will be, this is what Colombia wants, a new Nairo, a new Egan, a new Urán.

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