Joking around, discussing chicharrón, and enjoying endless laughter. Team Colombia at the Giro.


Photo: Cycling Inquisition

The fourth floor hallway of the Ortlerspitz hotel in San Valentino Italy, was eerily quiet. This despite the fact that Team Colombia's riders were all staying on that floor, but were napping before dinner, or getting massaged. Were it not for that, the volume and mood on that floor would have been wildly different. I say this because during the time I spent with the team at the Giro, I quickly came to realize how rare it was to find them being quiet for any reason. It's obvious that they take their job seriously (particularly at a race like the Giro), but that doesn't stop them from laughing and joking around at all times. Transfers in the team bus or in cars, as well as dinner and breakfast are tedious parts of the job for most teams. For Team Colombia, they appear to merely be opportunities to spend time cracking jokes, telling stories, and making fun of each other and everything else they can think of. This spirit among the riders is so persistent in fact, that if you don't know where the hotel's dinning room is, you can simply listen for the contagious laughter, and the perpetual use of the word "parcero", as the riders refer to one another to a comical degree.

Photo: Cycling Inquisition

"You're telling me you can't make real chicharron in Europe?" Leonardo Duque asks defiantly at the dinner table. "Then what do you call this?" He flashes a picture on his phone for everyone to see. It's a plate of pork rinds on a plate, along with rice and beans. There's a rare silence as everyone studies the picture, but it doesn't last long. A teammate answers, "What do I call that? I call that dried up chicharron that looks inedible, that's what I call it!" The table erupts in laughter, as Duque puts his phone away. He has a come-back, but no one hears it over the laughter. Eventually, he starts laughing too, and the whole team moves on to the next subject at hand, which again prompts joking, laughing and wild gesturing. 


Photo: Cycling Inquisition

At the other side of the room, the Vini Fantini team sits having dinner in near silence. Their race has been going well so far (a stage win, no positive test to speak of yet). I look at them for a while, and then then look back at the table I'm sitting at, surrounded be fellow Colombians. Young riders joke and laugh with an amount of energy and endurance that only professional cyclists posses. At one point, one of them laughs so hard that he begins to weep a bit.

It's cold, rainy and miserable outside. Everyone at the table knows they'll be racing in this weather tomorrow, but that doesn't matter right now. Two of them suddenly break into song for a few seconds, followed by subsequent laughter. It's just another day for a team of young Colombians in Italy, all of whom love their job. Tomorrow, they'll race. But for now, there's plenty of laughs to be had at someone's expense.


A well-done documentary about the team during the Tour Méditerranéen. French subtitles with mostly Italian and Spanish being spoken. Even if you don't speak these languages, it's well worth a watch. Notice the team having dinner at 17:10, for a small taste of how the riders interact with one another. Thank you to Mr Inner Ring for bringing this video to my attention.

COLOMBIA CONNECTION by Velovideo




Photo: Cycling Inquisition

Photo: Cycling Inquisition
Photo: Cycling Inquisition
Photo: Cycling Inquisition
Photo: Cycling Inquisition
Photo: Cycling Inquisition

Photo: Cycling Inquisition
Photo: Cycling Inquisition
Photo: Cycling Inquisition
Photo: Cycling Inquisition


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Marginalia


Thirty years ago this July, an all-Colombian team competed in the Tour de France for the first time. The story of how that team came to compete in Europe, as well as how and why all-Colombian teams eventually stopped racing at the Tour in 1992 is a fascinating one. If you're interested in that topic, I'd like to remind you that I wrote a chapter about it for the second volume of Cycling Anthology. You can order your copy, which contains writing by many other authors, here.