Why are Colombian riders dominating the Giro d’Italia?

Rider development path in Colombia reaping its rewards at the Giro d'Italia, with stage wins and the race lead

The Giro is looking more di Colombia than d’Italia. Julian Arredondo won the stage to Panarotta yesterday while fellow Colombian, Nairo Quintana continues to lead towards the finish in Trieste.

“Why are the Colombians on top? The government took an interest and backed the sport,” Arredondo said. “There’s been a structure put in place, now youngsters are coming through and they’ll be great riders with the opportunity to do what we’re doing in the Giro.”

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Arredondo wore blue yesterday instead of his black team Trek jersey. He took the mountain classification top on stage eight. He escaped with a group of 14 cyclists. It went so well, he thought that he would also try to win the stage above Levico Terme to Panarotta.

“My main goal was a stage win,” the five-foot-five cyclist said. “I was in breaks in the first week, but without luck. I was able to get the blue jersey, though. I kept going to keep it. I went to get more points, but came away with a stage win, as well.”

Julian Arredondo wins stage eighteen of the 2014 Giro d'Italia

Julian Arredondo wins stage eighteen of the 2014 Giro d’Italia

Blue is not the only colour Colombians are wearing. Team Movistar’s Quintana leads the youth and general classification. Because he cannot wear both white and pink, second best young rider, Italian Fabio Aru will wear white in the time trial today. Quintana, though, looks like someone dipped him in a can of pink paint. Yesterday, he wore a pink jersey, shorts, gloves and helmet.

Including Quintana, 14 Colombians began this year’s Giro d’Italia. Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won the time trial stage to Barolo and thanks to his gains, became the first Colombian in the race’s 97-year history to wear the pink jersey. Quintana won the Val Martello stage on Tuesday and took enough time to become the second Colombian in pink.

If Quintana continues to control the race and carry the pink jersey all the way to Trieste on Sunday then he would become the race’s first Colombian winner. Only Luis Herrera has gone that far in a Grand Tour, winning the Vuelta a España in 1987.

“This is the strongest generation yet,” said Héctor Urrego, journalist for Colombia’s RCN radio. “The old generation lived, ate and trained in Colombia but the new guys live here most of the year and know what to expect. It doesn’t compare to win the Colombians came over and raced in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Along with Quintana, Urán and Arredondo – all in first division teams – another Colombian army is marching into Europe. Since 2012, Italian Claudio Corti led team Colombia. The team receives funding from the movement but bases itself near Brescia, Italy, and races most of the European races.

“Now, it’s the time for this generation to win the Giro or the Tour,” Urrego said. “They demonstrated it last year – Urán second in the Giro and Quintana second in the Tour – it’s possible.”

Giro d’Italia 2014 stage 18 photo gallery

Images from the 18th stage of the Giro d'Italia, won by by Julian Arredondo. Photos by Graham Watson