Impossible not to find out. It is the first question of the passport official at the Medellín airport. What? Do you also come to the cycling event?
The first Colombia Tour begins on Tuesday in the capital of Antioquia and the presence of some of the best cyclists in the world has transformed the race into an event that is believed to be remembered for a long time. The organizers – the Colombian cycling federation, which has public sponsorship and the collaboration and help of all kinds of state, departmental and municipal agencies – say that on Sunday next to the ascent of the Las Palmas stop, the summit the test, as little as 800,000 spectators will fill a highway that will be totally cut off to traffic.
The two main figures of the test, the British Chris Froome, winner of four Tours de France, and the national idol Nairo Quintana They stay in the same hotel, next to the Rionegro airport. Froome arrived by plane from Monaco two weeks ago with all his Sky equipment, the largest in the world; Nairo arrived by bicycle, along with his brother Dayer, and his peasant roots strengthened even more, his attachment to his land and to his Colombians, after three days traveling 500 kilometers from his Tunja in Boyacá to eastern Antioquia.
Each one represents a world and an idea.
They are two leaders who have met dozens of times in Europe, who they fought hard in the Tour de France -In three of the four victories of the British, Nairo, his fiercest rival, has been three times on the podium, in his shadow, always defeated–, and that faces will be seen for the first time in the Colombian heights.
Froome does not anticipate major battles on roads that almost never fall below 2,000 meters. That, the altitude, the preparation and training that increases the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen, is what the Briton has come to look for. Your stay in Colombia will be more clinical than competitive. Froome usually organizes several stays per year in the Teide, the volcano of the island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, and other traditional stations in Europe, areas where it usually sleeps aloft and trains almost 2,000 meters below because there is not so much ground above.
In Medellín, for the first time in his life, he will train constantly at height and his doctors and trainers will measure his blood values, constants and watts several times a day, and draw conclusions of preparation for the Tour, to seek victory in his fifth Tour, the goal that he has left in his life as a cyclist for a 34-year-old rider who has also won the Giro y Vuelta. "To win I do not see myself," he says. "The Colombians live here and are perfectly adapted to the height and more in shape. I'll have to work hard to keep up with them, so I'll help the Colombians on my team. " Talk, of course, about Egan Bernal, the new jewel of world cycling. Froome wants to be sympathetic and open to Colombia and even lets peasants on bicycles and flip flops approach and pedal by their side during their workouts that sometimes reach seven hours in a row. "This country I love, it reminds me of the Kenya of my childhood," he told the newspaper. The Colombian Froome, the British who was born in Nairobi, the son of English settlers. "And cycling is unique, all the fans can come to us, this is not football."
Cycling won in Colombia as a national sportand the backbone of the country in the years of great violence, and seven decades later, when the peace process continues stumbling, it continues to be the sport of the people. Nairo lives it like this, always on his bicycle, sweating it and letting himself be loved and embraced by everyone. When he travels to Europe, to his home in Monaco, where he settles in the competitive season, Nairo goes by bicycle from Tunja to the airport in Bogotá. And in Europe, whenever he speaks, remember that he is a Colombian from Boyacá, talks about his land and how cycling contributes to the name of Colombia getting another value, and speaks of the need always to change the narrative so established in every corner that destroys the image of your country. And when he competes in his land, always on a bicycle, even if it costs him days, he arrives in the city of departure.
The Tunja-Rionegro trip organized it to do it in three days, from Thursday to Saturday. Two cyclists, he and his brother, a protection car behind and a motorcycle policeman clearing the road ahead to cross the mountain range by Santander and municipalities that were not so much synonymous with violence and now have regained peace. Tunja-Arcabuco, 35 kilometers; Arcabuco-Moniquirá, 26; Moniquirá-Barbosa, 11; Barbosa-Vélez, 17; Vélez-Landázuri, 53; Landázuri-Cimitarra, 31; Cimitarra-Puerto Araújo, 34; Puerto Araújo-Puerto Boyacá, 100; Puerto Boyacá-Doradal, 38; Doradal-Sanctuary, 113; Sanctuary-Marinilla-10; Marinilla-Rionegro, 25. These were the stages written on your route card, municipalities where you stopped, saluted, in which the citizens went out to the road to wait for you, because the voice that arrived was spreading rapidly. And between town and town, and the stops to eat, for a coffee, Nairo pedaled and let himself be invaded by the landscape, by the land, by the road, and enjoyed.