It started with him. A lone cyclist from Medellín, racing in Flanders.

“I took a stool from one of the ship’s cabins, and put it on the deck, facing the port as we sailed off. I found myself staring at the Colombian coastline. I couldn’t bear the thought of turning away while Colombia, my home, was still visible. Before that moment, I had never doubted my decision to leave. But sitting on that stool, watching Colombia literally fade away and eventually disappear, I was suddenly overcome with fear and doubt. Was this the right thing to do? Would I ever see Colombia again? I kept asking myself these questions while sitting on that stool, and I refused to get up while the coastline was still visible.”

It was 1962, and Giovanni Jimenez was only twenty years old. He would go on to spend the following twelve days sitting at the bow of the small cargo ship that was taking him from Santa Marta, Colombia, to Hamburg, Germany. He tried hard to put his past behind him, and chose to look ahead, despite the fact that he suffered from severe sea-sickness for the entire length of the trip. But in Jimenez's mind, it was a price worth paying. That's because he knew the only way to make his dream come true was to go to Europe. His dream was to be come the first professional cyclist from Colombia.

Jimenez and Eddy Merckx
Jimenez went to on fulfill that dream, and his story is simply compelling, and not just because he represents the beginning of Colombian cycling on the world stage as we know it today. Yes, before Herrera, Parra, Uran or Quintana, there was Jimenez. But his is also the story of a single Colombian, living and racing in Flanders, taking on the biggest and most unforgiving races in the world, at a time when he was both his dream and drive behind it were vastly misunderstood by those back home.

Giovanni's story has never been told, but I was lucky enough to meet with him in Belgium, where he still lives, in order to write an article that you can find in the December issue of Cycle Sport. I urge you to pick up a copy.

Secondly, if you'll excuse me for inserting another bit of crass commercialism into this post, I want to let readers of the blog know that as a christmas special, you can buy all three volumes of Cycling Anthology for £20 (plus shipping), which is roughly $34 (US). The books include writing by people far more talented than me, though my chapters in volumes 2 and 3 are pretty damn so-so, if I do say so myself. Volume one's is the history of how a Colombian team first came to compete at the Tour de France, and includes interviews with both riders and broadcasters who were there in 1983. The one in volume three deals with binary logic among cycling fans, and asks what value current skepticism has, if it comes from the same vacuous place as the blind faith it's replaced. 

Lastly, I wanted to let all six readers of the blog know that I'll be on vacation the rest of this week, and hope to be back posting at some point during the week of December 2nd. See you then.