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Forming Colombian Cannonballs

August 31, 2011

Buena suerte. Good luck in Spanish. This, I can pronounce. I still have trouble pronouncing Gobernacion de Antioquia. But I know what the words mean. Gobernacion means “state” or “department.” Antioquia is one of the states in Colombia.

Antioquia, Colombian state or department

Orgullo Paisa translated into English means “proud people.” Orgullo Paisa is, based on my understanding from talking with Luis Barbosa of Nuestrociclismo, a cycling development program / team funded by the state of Antioquia that brings young people up in the sport. According to Luis, it’s the most important development program in the country.

For almost twenty years Orgullo Paisa has sought talented, young riders and launched guys such as Baez, Suarez, Infantino, and Botero into cycling careers. I think this list also includes Henao. From what I understand, the program provides access to equipment so that a family in need — like that of 16 year-old Johan Cardenas in the state of Boyaca — doesn’t have to sell its house to buy an aspiring teen-ager a good bike. What I am not clear about is whether the program favors cyclists from Antioquia; Baez, for example, is from the state of Boyaca and Infantino is originally from the Dominican Republic. I think I’ll ask “Klaus.” I’ll also ask him to confirm if the Gobernacion de Antioquia team we saw in Utah and Colorado is part of Orgullo Paisa — that’s how it seems (my lack of Spanish is getting in the way).

Orgullo Paisa has a Facebook page with lots of great photos of Henao, Botero, and others we’ve seen in the U.S. this August.

As much as Orgullo Paisa does, probably it can’t help allieviate the difficulty Colombian pro-cyclists have getting VISAs so they can travel internationally for races. Cycling Inquisition’s author, “Klaus” shared an interesting VISA story:

“It can take up to a year for most Colombians to get visas to most countries. Victor Hugo Peña had has visa stolen before the Tour on the year when he was in yellow for a few years with US postal. He was nearly unable to get into france legally. he was almost hours away from sneaking in across the border from spain, but the ambassador and people at the highest levels of government got involved and saved him in the last minute. amazing stuff.”

Update, 9/1/2011. Here is more background on Orgullo Paisa and GOB, from Klaus in response to my questions in the comments area on Cycling Inquisition:

“I actually spoke with Santiago Botero on the phone this morning, could have asked him for you. But this is what I understand. In Antioquia (the Colombian department), the state has funded a program to develop riders since 2003 I think. During that time, the program has had amateur teams for young riders, and an elite team, which only really turned professional this year. During its life, the program and the team has been named multiple things, including “orgullo paisa”, as well as the current name (which is that of the sports association of antioquia, as well as the government of the department). So Orgullo paisa is Governacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antioquia. So in a way, the team doesn’t have a real sponsor per se. This explains why they buy their own bikes, riders buy their own bar tape etc. “

A cyclingnews article stated the program has been in place for 18 years and described how Botero borrowed trainers and the mechanics switched out parts during the UPCC Vail time trail so different riders could share a TT bike (the team didn’t have a TT bike for each rider).  So while Orgullo Paisa provides for its recruits, it seems it doesn’t have sufficient backing to fund everything a rider might need.

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