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What the Colombia Oro y Paz taught us

Joe Robinson
13 Feb 2018

This inaugural Colombian stage race produced a spectacle in which the home riders dominated

The Colombia Oro y Paz was more than your usual stage race. Crowds brimmed with enigmatic spectators, echoing chants of their cycling heroes, fiercely exciting racing.

In the end, the young Egan Bernal (Team Sky) took the overall victory out-climbing the much more experienced Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rigoberto Uran (EF-Drapac).

Nobody could match the power of Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) in the sprints and Nairo's younger brother Dayer finally got to share the limelight.

The race also helped us learn a lot about the state of cycling currently in Colombia, which riders could be the future of our sport and what the effects of riding in front of a fanatical home crowd can do.

As expected, Colombian fans are as fanatical at home

Images of Colombian fans swamping the Mitchelton-Scott or Movistar team buses at Grand Tours to sneak a glimpse of their beloved Esteban Chaves or Nairo Quintana are standard practice now.

So it comes as no surprise that this party atmosphere is cranked up to 11 when the riders race on home soil.

Any time a Colombian rider was presented on stage throughout the week, the crowd erupted chanting their names showing that their appreciation knows no bounds.

Take to the roads and each time the peloton climbed a slight hill or cruised down a main road they were met with a funnel of fans enamoured with the sight of their biggest and best riders.

The 10-deep crowd on either side of the road was only comparable to the big mountain days at the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France. 

The man who felt this more than most was Nairo Quintana. Any time he travelled from the team bus to sign on to the race start a collection of almost 20 police officers would escort him clearing a path through the adoringly obsessed fans.

Colombian cycling could be about to dominate

While they have been there or thereabouts since the 1980s, there are many major races - including the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix and the elite UCI Road World Championships - that are yet to be won by a Colombian.

This could be all about to change thanks to two riders who shone bright at the Colombia Oro y Paz, Gaviria Bernal.

Despite being only 21-years-old, Bernal managed to dispatch rivals Quintana and Uran on the final climb of the final stage to take the overall title by eight seconds.

This will come as no surprise to those who have tracked the young Colombian's sharp rise to brilliance. If winning the Tour de l'Avenir in 2017 was not enough, he proved his worth with the elites finishing 13th and 16th in Il Lombardia and Milano-Torino respectively. 

Nairo Quintana may currently remain as Colombia's best chance at winning the Tour de France but it seems as if it might not be long before he is usurped by Bernal.

Moving on to Gaviria and there is even less reason to argue. Yes, the quality of opposition was not of the highest order at the Oro y Paz but the way in which he dominated with three consecutive stage wins was sublime.

The scary thing is that the 23-year-old did the same at last year's Giro against much stiffer competition and it will come of no surprise if he did this come July at the Tour.

Riders are motivated when they race at home

The results speak for themselves here. The overall winner was Colombian as was the winner of the youth, points and mountains jerseys. 

Five of the six stages were won by Colombians with only Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) ruining the party. The final classification had eight Colombians within the top 10 and 16 within the top 20.

The home riders dominated even further when the road went upwards. The final two stages to Salento and Manizales were summit finishes and on both occasions Colombian riders completed the top five on each stage.

This commanding performance could not even be attributed to a lack of foreign competition. Alaphilippe and Hugh Carthy (EF-Drapac) are star talents on the uphill and the wily 41-year-old Oscar Sevilla is as good as any outside of the WorldTour.

Yet despite their limbing prowess it proved not to be a match for Colombian riders riding on home soil being cheered on by their fanatical home fans.