Ridiculously battered, but still eager to race



Pedro Nel Gil (Photo: El Colombiano)

Pedro Nel Gil was part of Colombia's first generation of well-known and beloved cyclists. Pictured here after a Vuelta a Colombia stage, he would go on to place third in two Vueltas a Colombia (1951 and 1952). During those races, his mother lovingly followed him through punishing terrain in the back of an open-deck truck.

Such was Nel Gil's fighting spirit (he once finished third in a Vuelta a Colombia stage with several broken bones in his hand, and a dislocated shoulder), that he was the first to inspire a young Ramon Hoyos to compete in a bike race. And Hoyos did just that. Surprisingly, however, Hoyos decided to do so right then and there.

In the late 1940s and early 50s Ramon Hoyos was an aspiring cyclist, and like many others, he loved seeing bike races. In one occasion, he went the town of Rionegro to see the Doble A Santa Rosa de Osos race. As Tito Gallo and Pedro Nel Gil went by, fighting for first place, other fans were content with merely watching the duel. Ramon Hoyos wasn't. He remembers being absolutely overcome with emotion. He too wanted to race, and he couldn't contain himself any longer.

As with all Colombian races that had the word "Doble" in their title, this one was a "there and back" affair. So as Nel Gil and Tito Gallo came back through, Hoyos broke down. He got on his bike, and joined them. His dream of competing was coming true, albeit in a strange manner.

Despite his fresh legs, Hoyos was unable to drop his makeshift competitors. Instead, as the group reached the finish line, an inexperienced Hoyos crashed into the back of a team car that stopped suddenly. His already sub-par bike, which had cost him an unbelievable amount of money, was now ruined. According to Hoyos himself, he looked "ridiculously battered", and quickly realized that he'd gotten involved in something that he had no business in. He went home feeling ashamed and defeated, but still eager to race.

Without even knowing it, Pedro Nel Gil had managed to inspire Ramon Hoyos, a man who would shortly thereafter become one of the greatest Colombian cyclists, as well as being the inspiration for the term "escarabajo".