pro cycling

Getting high (altitude) at the Tour of Colombia

Tour of Colombia 2020

I can offer no great pro cycling insight into the recent Tour of Colombia. I have never visited the place, felt the terrain, or attempted to suck in the thin, high altitude air. Others are more qualified to talk you through the nuances.

The nuances of the nuances, on the other hand, are right in my ballpark. I’m all over them.

You need some devastating speculation on the importance of home advantage? That’s me. Are you, too, concerned about the wanton bastardisation of the EF Education First Jersey as worn by race winner Sergio Higuita? You are not alone.

And before we get to that, what of pre-eminent Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana? Is he, having instead raced the Tour de la Provence for his new French team (Arkea-Samsic), now officially French?

Pretty sure that’s how French citizenship works?!

Regardless of immigration status, visa requirements, and the rest, if you race one of the really French French bike races (Etoile de Besseges, Paris Camembert…), the little flag after your name on the classification clicks across to the Tricolour and you become a child of la Republique.

Et Voila: Nairo ‘le Petit Grimpeur’ Quintana.

But, Colombia.

Check out that top ten at the end of the six stages: Eight Colombians, one Ecuadorian, and one, presumably quite exhausted Norwegian.

Of the one hundred and thirty one finishers the top eighty is largely Colombian (or at least South American) with the bottom fifty made up of plucky Europeans and assorted others (Americans, the occasional Aussie, some Russians).

Even the three sprint stages (and I use the term sprint fairly loosely) were contested in finishing towns at an altitude of two and a half thousand metres.

You want context? You ever ridden up Mont Ventoux, The Giant of Provence? The air is pretty thin up there, right? Nineteen hundred metres of altitude; compared to Colombia, basically sea-level.

Imagine woozily sprinting for a high-altitude finish line!

You want to win a sprint in Columbia you need legs like tree trunks and lungs like a set of Victorian bellows. You want to win a mountain finish you also need those lungs, but encased within a body fat percentage in the low single figures and with a couple of decades of acclimatisation under your belt (or, y’know…bib-shorts).

Embed from Getty Images

Failing that, unless you are that random Norwegian Torsten Traeen, you’ll be struggling to make the top eighty.

Which brings me to the really important issue: yes, Senor Higuita, your overall Tour of Colombia win is impressive. I’m happy for you. But look at your jersey. LOOK!

Is that worth it?

Being an EF Education First rider you are generally resplendent in perhaps the finest, most stylish jersey in the pro peloton; that Rapha designed pink/blue fade being an instant classic. For leading and winning in Colombia you get to wear orange.

Fine. No problem. We all like a bit of orange.

Embed from Getty Images

But wait..!?

It needs an EF logo across the front. As we know, that is pink, and…OW, my eyes, take it away! Pink/blue fade cannot then fade into orange. This isn’t possible. This is basic physics…or optics…or something, and it’s making me want to shave my own eyeballs!

Shouldn’t there be an old rhyme designed to prevent such visual pollution: “With orange and pink you should stop and think (about the effect you are having on the wellbeing of those around you and take off the damn jersey…RIGHT NOW!).”

Shame on you Sergio.

Don’t make me revoke Quintana’s French citizenship and send him back here to give you a whooping. Either change teams, give next year’s Tour of Colombia a miss, or go all in at Tro Bro Leon in April for that French passport.


(Top Image: Por Douglasfugazi – Obra do próprio, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87172680)

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