Nairo Quintana, Alpe d'Huez, and their place in Colombia's shared consciousness

July 16, 1984. A relatively short stage (151 kms, 94 miles) from Grenoble to Alpe d'Huez. As I remember it, this was one of the first stages of the Tour de France that I ever listened to on the radio, during those mornings when my brother and I would lay in bed, in the small room we shared in my family's house in Bogota. The sound of the radio had a transformative effect during those early mornings, as I would close my eyes and picture the scenery being described by the voices of Colombia's evocative commentators. Later on, I would be drawn to look up the very location of Alpe d'Huez in my school atlas, as previously foreign names like "Grenoble" and "Le Bourg-d'Oisans" suddenly took on new meaning..

When Lucho Herrera won that stage to Alpe d'Huez in 1984, he became the first-ever latin-american (and Colombian) to take a win in a grand tour. In doing so, he became a Colombian icon, one of almost-religious proportions (something I wrote about after having spoken with Lucho recently here). Through it all, both Lucho and the Alpe d'Huez became part of Colombia's history, as well as our shared consciousness. Bigger victories would come for Lucho and Colombian cycling as a whole, but July 16, 1984 has endured as one of the most important and lasting memories in Colombian sport from the last fifty years.

Today, Nairo Quintana attempted to repeat Lucho's achievement but it was not to be. Nevertheless, with today's ride he's established himself as being one of the best climbers in the world, earning a potential podium spot in Paris (he'd be the first Colombian to stand on the podium since Fabrio Parra). No small feat for a man of only 23 years of age, who is only riding his first Tour de France. And in doing so, he's managed to give Colombians yet another memory that's linked to Alpe d'Huez.

The short video below (subtitled) speaks about the importance of Alpe d'Huez to Colombians, and includes Herrera's recollections of his victory there in 1984.

Lastly, here's a list that illustrates the fastest times up Alpe d'Huez, including Herrera's (sorry about the fuzziness of the graphic, Blogger is no help in this matters).