An interview with Angie Tatiana Rojas, designer of the IDRD-Bogota Humana-San Mateo-Solgar cycling kit

This year, Nairo Quintana was the first Colombian to ever win the Giro d'Italia, as Carlos Betancur won Paris-Nice, and fantastic performances from Rigoberto Uran, Winner Anacona, and Esteban Chaves (along with the ongoing domination of women's BMX by Mariana Pajon) kept the country's name in the headlines. And despite all this, the one story that got Colombian cycling (and women's cycling as a whole) the most press this year had to do with the color of a cycling kit. In particular, it was the kit worn by a Colombian team at the Giro Toscana, which prompted endless headlines, and an investigation by the UCI. 

By now, you have probably already seen the picture. But in case you haven't, here it is.

Many online thought the women in the team were actually partially nude. Others thought the design was a publicity stunt. Former British Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, assuming the women in the team had been forced to wear the kit, Tweeted, "This has turned the sport into a joke. Girls stand up for yourselves - say no."

All these comments were made without ever speaking to the team's riders, much less the person who designed the kit.

As you may already know by now, the riders were not partially nude (though some news outlets partially censored the image above). The kit was not designed as a publicity stunt, and they had not been forced to wear it. The kit was designed by a team member, 22 year old Angie Tatiana Rojas. It was vetted by her teammates, and they have been racing in it for a full season both in Colombia and abroad. 

In an effort to gather more information, I reached out to the Bogota Cycling League, which manages the team, in order to interview Angie Tatiana, who is second from the left in the picture above. 

My original intent was to interview her not just about this topic, but about her cycling career, how the team performed in Italy, and about the team's season in general. I wanted to do this in an effort to find out more about her and women's cycling in Colombia, and to hopefully do away with the caricature that has been painted by many online of the women in the team. Sadly, our time was cut short (the team just returned from Europe today, due to the Air France strike), and the range of topics we were able to discuss was limited. I do plan on speaking with Angie Tatiana again in the future though, perhaps about more dignified topics. In the meantime, here's my interview with her. 


Where were you born and raised?
I'm from Bogota, and I live in San Cristobal

How and when did you begin cycling competitively?
Originally, I was a speed skater. I raced and represented both Bogota and Colombia as a skater until I was 14 years old. At 15, I decided to change sports, and tried to find something that was a little less time consuming, so that it wouldn't get in the way of my studies. I picked cycling because it's so challenging, so beautiful and so hard.

Is cycling your lone occupation?
No. Last year, I graduated with a degree in communications and journalism. Today, I work in communications, as well as writing about cycling. Aside from that, I'm a musician, and of course a cyclist.

What type of music are you involved in?
Llanera. [for those not familiar with Colombian and Venezuelan folk music, you can hear what llanera sounds like here.]

You designed the team's kit, which has now gotten attention worldwide. What can you tell me about the design?
Yes, I came up with the design in January, when sponsorship for the team was settled upon. So it was around January and February. There was a couple of other design concepts before this final one, which we are racing in now.

Still from video story by the Mirror UK

Still from video story by the Mirror UK

What was your inspiration, or thinking behind the design?
It was to highlight our team's sponsors, that was always the goal. I offered to design the kit, in order to help my team, and to be helpful to the organization and my fellow riders. I always aim to be as helpful as possible both on and off the bike.

Much of the controversy, if you can call it that, is about the color that is used in the mid-section. Where did the color come from?
It came from the primary colors of our sponsors. In fact, it was going to be the kit's primary color, throughout the upper portion. But within the peloton, that color would not be visible enough, so we opted to switch it to the shorts, and instead used red and yellow on the upper part, for the sake of visibility. The red and yellow are the colors of the flag of Bogota.

As for the color around the shorts, it comes from our sponsors. It's the primary color used by Solgar, a company that makes vitamins, and is also similar to the one used by San Mateo University , another one of our sponsors [if you look closely, you'll see a bottle of Solgar vitamins, in the same color, in the middle of the chest in the kit].

What do you make of the fact that it's for this reason that women's cycling is getting so much attention?

I think it's sad that it takes something like this for cycling, and women's cycling in particular, to get this much press. But we have to make the most of this moment, however it came to be. In the end, our reason for training, for racing and for every pedal stroke is to make our families proud, and to represent our city and Colombia with pride. That's our reason for training, and for doing what we do. We are firm believers in the transformative effect that sport can have, and that's our daily aim when we train, to make our country better through our actions.

How are all of you as a team feeling after all this press? Is morale low, or are you perhaps more cohesive as a group since you've been brought together by all this?

You know, even before this, we were very close and worked together as a team. We are friends first, and women that know what it's like to sacrifice and train every day. So we are doing well, and we are at peace, because know that as a team, everything we've done has always been done with the best intentions. No malice or anything other than love and passion for the sport has ever been a part of what we've done or continue to do.


Palmarés

2005:

  • National Champion, speed skating

2007:

  • District champion, time trial
  • 2º District road race
  • 4º national championships, time trial
  • 4º national championships, road race
  • 2º juniores road race
  • 6º overall, Vuelta al Futuro

2008:

  • District champion, time trial
  • 2º District road racea.
  • District champion, track
  • National champion, time trial
  • 3º national championships, time trial
  • 3º national championships, track

2009:

  • Winner, juniors, National Track Cup
  • District champion, track
  • District champion, track
  • 2º national points race
  • 3º Olympic trials, track
  • 4º national championships, pursuit
  • 3º national road race
  • Team selection, world championship

2010:

  • 3º team pursuit, Copa Colombia
  • District champion, track
  • 2º district road race
  • Team selection, youth games Singapore