Twenty five years ago Café de Colombia, sponsored by the coffee farmers federation in Colombia, was a well-respected team on the professional circuit. They stormed Europe with Fabio Parra and Lucho Herrera and their biggest success came in 1985 when Lucho Herrera won the Vuelta de España. Sadly, the team finally fell apart when the sponsor dropped the team in 1990. Today, as we speak, a whole team of ‘Escarabajos’ (beetles) as is the good-humoured nickname of Colombian cyclists are competing in the Giro d’Italia. The team is based in Italy to optimise exposure to the Alpes, Dolomites and the European cycling culture but the team members have their base in Colombia. All of them have developed in the mountainous areas of the Andes where numerous mountains are made for daily training, cycling to school and work or just for exercise. The Colombian government decided to fund a team to get as many Colombians as possible into the second highest segment of professional cycling.
In their second appearance in the Giro d’Italia, the roster consists of, Fabio Duarte, Rodolfo Torres, Edwin Avila, Robinson Chalapud, Leonardo Duque, Jarlinson Pantano, Carlos Quintero, Jeffry Romero and Colombian road race champion Miguel Rubiano. Where the team last year was a group of adventurers that solely had a target of getting in as many breaks as possible and surprising the peloton, the team now has some clear objectives.
Fabio Duarte is their trump card for the general classification. Duarte came off a great preparation in the Tour de Romandie, ending 4th overall between the big shots in cycling – Evans, Scarponi and Wiggins. His domestiques in the mountains will be Torres, Chalapud and Pantano, who all have had decent results in smaller mountainous events. In the mountains, besides supporting Duarte, we will see them in the big breaks.
For the sprints, team manager Corti decided to take the pair Duque and Avila to Italy. Avila is a young sprinter coming off the track circuit with a great jump in the final meters, while the 34 years old Duque has ten years of experience in the pro circuit including 12 showings in the grand tours. Avila will be the main card in the sprints but Duque will look for his moment to get involved as well.
On the flatlands or rolling landscapes, Quintero, Rubiano and Romero will go on breaks as often as they can. They will have plenty of opportunities because coming from Colombia they also have the climbers gene in them to survive the horrendous mountains. Colombia Pro Cycling will do everything to get a stage victory and finish close in the general classification with Duarte but their levels of experience might not match their hopes.
By Freek Huigen