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Colombian Cannonballs Calling

August 18, 2011

Relief map of Colombia, 2008

In the late 1970’s my husband hooked up with a Columbian racing club in the Bronx. “They were the only ones that knew anything about bike racing,” he says. “They talked about strategy and teamwork, and that’s how we rode. Americans just got on their bikes and rode fast; they didn’t understand teamwork, but the Columbians always did it.”

These comments at the dinner table tonight led me to reflect on what I saw of the Colombian Gobernacion de Antioquia-Indeportes Antioquia (GOB) Continental team that dominated the 2011 Tour of Utah with Team RadioShack, and what a force the Colombians will be in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UPCC) with two Colombian teams competing in that race. The Utah peloton may still be reeling from the Colombian team’s aggression; in stage 5 at one point the entire — or close to it — GOB team rode in the yellow jersey group. The team sent one black-clad rider after another up the road in attack after attack in all of the road stages. And while the race roster is still preliminary, at least one American team is bringing Colombian riders to the UPCC; Team Exergy may start Salas, Diaz, and Alzate in addition to Fast Freddie Rodriguez.

Then there are the questions about Colombian culture that have been knocking on my brain. Why are their names so long and which names do you use? What is a typical Colombian food? I’ll write about these in a later post.

Gobernacion de Antioquia-Indeportes Antioquia Team

During the start of the Tour of Utah stage 2 I enjoyed speaking with Luis Barbosa, a journalist for who traveled with the team. I mentioned I had heard and written about Janier Acevedo Calle, that he had been dubbed the team’s “secret weapon” for the UPCC. With teammates Sergio Henao Montoya and Oscar Sevilla Ribera placed first and second in the race,  I asked if they were conserving Acevedo’s energy in Utah. Luis said, “Janier (pronouced like “junior”) has great talent. These guys are all good climbers. They live at altitude. Living and training at altitude they can make a great performance in Colorado because they are a strong team. They can go for GC, mountains, and stages.”

This team beams youth. Henao was born in 1987; Acevedo, in 1985. Montoya may be the youngest at 22 years-old. Sevilla, who is Spanish and the senior member of the team at age 34, said he has been living in Colombia for three years; his wife is Colombian.

Luis also photographed the team during the Tour of Utah; find his photos on

Luis mentioned the second Colombian Continental team competing in the UPCC, EPM-UNE. He described this team as similar to GOB: young climbers. Two riders to pay attention to he said are Juan Pablo Suarez Suarez who won this year’s Volta do Rio de Janeiro, a five-day stage race, and Giovanni Baez Alvarez, a climber time-trialist who won the Tour of Columbia in 2008. Juan Pablo Suarez Suarez placed 6th in this year’s Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.

I can’t wait to see these guys climb with the Schlecks in the UPCC.

Acevedo, Henao, and Sevilla at the 2011 Tour of Utah (Mary Topping)

I also met Santiago Botero, director of Gobernacion de Antioquia-Indeportes Antioquia. He feels the team’s early results in the Tour of Utah are very motivating for the upcoming UPCC.

As they sat in the team cars and lounged on the grass before the start of stage 2 drinking Coke, the guys came across as a combination of playful, sleepy, and eager. When I asked for a photo of Sevilla, Henao, and Acevedo and the three of them posed, two others jumped onto the line — you can see one of them entering this photo. They wanted to be photographed as a team.

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