Hinault and Herrera in a "Duel Between Two Titans"

Still from the 1986 TV commercial for the Clasico RCN, billed as the "Duel Between Two Titans"

In 1958, a small Colombian rider named Ramon Hoyos managed to beat an exhausted Fausto Coppi in the Doble A Pintada race. Hoyos became a national hero, and his biography was subsequently written by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez for the newspaper El Espectador. While this victory was of huge importance to a country like Colombia, the excitement passed over the next few decades. By the time I became a fan of the sport in the 1980s, Hoyos' victory was a distant memory. The organizers of the Clasico RCN (RCN being one of the largest broadcasting companies in Colombia) must have felt the same way also, because in 1986 they invited Bernard Hinault and his La Vie Claire team to compete in the nine day race they sponsored.

Hinault dressed in typical arriero garb in 1986. This is the type of clothing used by peasants and farmers in the department of Antioquia, and it was based on this attire that the Juan Valdez character was created.

Over the years, the Clasico RCN had hosted many European and American riders like Pascal Simon, Laurent Fignon, Charly Mottet, Sean Kelly and Claudio Chiappucci. But Hinault's appearance was different, in part because it was purposefully billed as a duel between Lucho Herrera and Frenchman. The press agreed, and hyped the race as such. This would be the moment when Herrera and his team would finally defeat Hinault thoroughly.

That Hinault was in the last year of his career mattered little to fans in Colombia. As we saw it, Hinault's strengths hadn't really diminished (he was second at the Tour that year, had won the mountains classification, and had spent five days in the yellow jersey...much to Greg Lemond's surprise). The whole country eagerly awaited the "duel" they had been promised. Herrera, despite having had an illness-plagued season, managed to deliver a win against Hinault.

Herrera gets a water bottle from his teammate Alfonso Florez. Florez was the first Colombian to wear the polka dot jersey at the Tour, and was later assassinated in Medellin by Pablo Escobar's men.

Below is a recap of the video, including the commercial for the race with an amusing western theme (commercial starts 2 minutes in). It was a duel after all. It's also worth mentioning that the song at the very end, the official jingle for the race, is one I had forgotten about, but instantly remembered. I guess it was just laying dormant in the back of my mind for all this time.

In case you're wondering, no, I can't explain why the recap of the race features the song Talking In Your Sleep by The Romantics. As much as I enjoy being a cultural mediator of sorts, there's certain things about Colombia that even I (a Colombian) can't understand or explain. To be fair, however, small races in Portugal and Italy earlier this year set their highlights to Iron Maiden songs, so I guess anything goes. By the way, if you want to know more about Herrera and his 1987 win at the Vuelta a España, check out my brother's telling of that race here.


News about Mauricio Soler have been sparse over the last few days. El Tiempo in Colombia is now reporting that doctors have attempted to bring him out of the coma several times, but Soler became anxious and was rough in his actions/temperament (there is no great translation of the word "brusco" which the newspaper used). Soler has made some movements, and tests performed appear to show that an injury to his medulla is unlikely. The swelling in his brain is going down, but the Movistar doctor says that the analysis for possible neurological damage is a slow process that requires patience. He is no longer in a comma, but in a state of induced drowsiness. He will soon be moved to Pamplona, where he shares a home with Rigoberto Uran during the season.

Mauricio's wife Patricia and his brother are both in Switzerland by his side. Their ten month old son has stayed behind in Colombia. She says several Movistar riders have stopped by, and some have been unable to contain their tears when speaking with her. She too admits to having a breakdown of sorts in the hospital last week, crying uncontrollably after days of putting on a strong facade. Crying along with her was Claudia Turbay, the Colombian Ambassador to Switzerland. May Mauricio recover quickly.