Thursday, July 18, 2024

Il Giro d’Italia 2014 – Stage 18; Belluno – Rif. Panarotta, 171 km. Julián Arredondo Soars


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Giro d'Italia logoIs it me or is Quintana just TOO pink; he looks like something from Toy Story gone feral – but when you can climb like he can then you can get away with pretty much anything, I guess?

It looks like the Giro is won; even if he has an off day in the mountain test or Zoncolan it’s unlikely the little chap will concede 1:41 to Uran and even less likely he’ll drop 3:29 to Rolland & Co.

It’s been a great race and even though it’s now pretty much certain that the small gentleman from Tunja on the Pan American Highway in Colombia will win and Uran will be second, the battle for the third spot on the podium – and just maybe the second one, too – rages on.

Julián Arredondo
Julián Arredondo. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Rolland has impressed me; I can’t remember the last time I saw a French rider battling so doggedly for the podium of a Grand Tour – Jalabert, maybe?

I used to be a Jaja fan ‘til I heard about the Pot Belge parties…

Anyway, enough of the ‘D’ word, I’ll leave it to Chris Froome to stir up that particular pot of stew – via social media, naturally – and get back to Monsieur Rolland.

The Giro is the Giro and the Tour is the Tour but let’s hope his riding here gives him inspiration for the Tour in 2015 – no one can perform in two Grand Tours back to back anymore.

Julián Arredondo
Ryder Hesjedal and Piere Rolland. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Big respect to Ryder Hesjedal, if it wasn’t for that Garmin nightmare TTT in Belfast then he’d be right there with Quintana and Uran.

And respect too to Phillip Deignan, he’s certainly ‘honouring the pink race’ and giving a lack lustre Giro for Sky a little bit of a sheen.

Julián Arredondo
Phillip Deignan. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

One of our musings earlier in the race was that Uran may have improved his time trialling at the expense of his climbing – we were proved right on that one.

And another question we asked was; ‘is Cadel “doing a Hinault” and creating an image that’s based on bravado?’

Sadly, it now looks like the answer is ‘yes’ – whilst there are no easy stages in this Giro, yesterday’s to Panarotta was by no means the toughest we’ve seen but Evans crumbled, losing 1:41 to Aru who was the best of the ‘Bigs’ on the day.

It’s highly unlikely the Aussie can claw his way back from ninth to get those kisses from the bonnie podium girls on Sunday.

The journalist’s questions post-stage must be torture now; he’ll know that the podium is over but has to keep making those positive noises…

Julián Arredondo
Cadel Evans, usually not the easiest of interviewees. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

And another ‘colombiano’ day on the Giro with Arredondo winning for Trek from Duarte from Colombia and well, Colombia – whilst Quintana leads from Uran on the GC.

Joy unbridled then, in cycling daft Colombia.

Back when ‘I were lad’ the first inclination I had that cycling was big in Colombia was in 1971 when Martin ‘Cochise’ Rodriguez won the World Amateur 4000 metres Pursuit Championship.

Julián Arredondo
Martin Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, I subsequently discovered, was world amateur hour record holder, had been a prolific winner on the road in South America, winning the Vuelta a Colombia and Clasico RCN as well as gold in the Pan Am Games in the pursuit.

The fact that Rodriguez was pictured on the phone to the President of Columbia right after his winning ride in the pursuit made me think; ‘wow!’ – conscious HM the Queen never rang Hughie Porter after any of his four pro Worlds Pursuit wins.

Rodriguez signed professional with Bianchi and went on to win two Giro stages as well as the classic and beautiful Baracchi Trophy two up time trial near Pisa with Felice Gimondi.

Julián Arredondo
Rodriguez, Pursuit Champion of the World.

The next big bout of ‘Columbian Fever’ was in 1980 when Alfonso Florez won the Tour de l’Avenir.

With the clearer distinction there was back then between professional and amateur racing ‘The Avenir’ was the world’s number one amateur stage race with the professional talent scouts taking a very keen interest in proceedings.

The previous two years the race had been won by Soviet legend, Sergei Soukhoroutchenkov; and it was ‘Super Whooping Cough’ – as the English journos named him – who Florez beat to win the French stage race.

Sergei Soukhoroutchenkov
Sergei Soukhoroutchenkov.

Florez went on to ride le Tour in 1983 but sadly, was murdered in Colombia in 1992 at just 39 years of age.

Colombian cycling of that era was inextricably linked to the world of drug dealing with notorious drugs ‘baron’ Pablo Escobar and his brother involved in sponsoring a team – but let’s not go down that road.

We all took notice again in 1984 when Martin Ramirez won the Dauphine – winning ‘The Avenir’ was one thing but beating Hinault and Lemond to win the Dauphine as another and the French press was full of praise pour ‘les Colombiens’ for days.

It may be usurped on Sunday when, as look inevitable, Nairo Quintana wins the Giro; but Columbian cycling’s finest hour was in 1987 when Luis ‘Lucho’ Herrera won the Vuelta – which was held in the spring, back then.

During a long career he also won the Dauphine twice and was King of the Mountains in le Tour.

Luis ‘Lucho’ Herrera
Luis ‘Lucho’ Herrera.

Some say that the Colombian’s decline on the world cycling stage was due to the rise of EPO – the mountain men losing their natural advantage to the contents of team fridges.

However, the sages say that now that EPO consumption much less of an issue – we all hope – the Colombian’s natural advantage of birth and life at high altitude is coming in to play, again.

On the evidence of this Giro that’s hard to argue with.

Mountain time trial tomorrow – and we’re not talking ‘Gordon Arms’ here guys…