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Bernal returns: Tour Colombia preview

Joseph Delves
7 Feb 2020

Why the Tour of Colombia is the first race worth tuning in for this year

It’s only February, but the road cycling season is already sprouting back into life. South of the equator the Tour Down Under and Jayco Herald Sun Tour have provided some early interest. While the sparsely attended Saudi Tour has also seen riders obliged to ride. More interestingly, the Volta Comunitat Valenciana tempted riders including Ion Izagirre (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) out to play.

However, the Tour Colombia, formerly known as the Colombia Oro y Paz, could be the first real impetus for cycling fans to renew their Eurosport subscription - if for no other reason than it’ll provide the any early opportunity to see Tour de France champion Egan Bernal in action.

A short history of the Tour Colombia

A young stage race, the Tour Colombia was first held in 2018. Since then it’s become a lightning rod for the boom in Colombian cycling, consistently producing exciting racing.

Taking in six stages, its inaugural edition saw Fernando Gaviria and Julian Alaphilippe of QuickStep take stage wins before Colombian wunderkind Bernal announced himself by securing the overall win.

Last year, Alaphilippe again took the penultimate stage. Following this, the race concluded with a cracking scrap involving Bernal, teammate Ivan Sosa, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, and eventual winner Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana.

Having grown an outsized reputation, this year the 2.1 race will again see a host of GC contenders assemble for the first time in the season.

This year’s contenders

Both Bernal and Alaphilippe are set to return. As is Bernal’s new Ineos teammate and Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz. UAE Team Emirates is sending Fabio Aru, who will be backed by home fave Sergio Henao. And while Colombian fans will be sad to find Quintana absent, Movistar has lined up three other domestic riders in the form of Carlos Betancur, Juan Bolivar and Einer Rubio.

Located on the opposite side of the equator, the Colombian National Championships only took place last weekend. With Education First's Sergio Higuita beating Bernal into second by over a minute, the 22-year old will probably also fancy his chances, especially riding alongside Colombian veteran Rigoberto Uran.

His aspirations will be further helped by the fact that both Bernal and Sosa are still suffering from injuries sustained during the National Championships race.

Seconded from his Mitchelton-Scott squad, Esteban Chaves will be riding for the Colombian national team and should be another contender.

All of the above will benefit from the absence of two riders. Having previously used the race to launch his season, Chris Froome will postpone his return as he seeks to work his way back from the crash he suffered last June. Strangely the Astana team of defending champion López has also chosen not to defend their title.

Colombia: Land of the bicycle

Many reasons have been given for the dominance of the latest generation of Colombian riders. Altitude might play a part. Despite only packing in one summit finish, all of this year’s racing takes place above 2,500 metres. However, a fuller explanation lies in the explosion of enthusiasm for cycling in the South American country. Something Cyclist discovered when we visited last year.

Colombia has certainly been a good hunting ground for Team Ineos, who have not only found their current de facto leader in Bernal but three other young prospects in the form of Sosa, Sebastián Henao and Brandon Rivera. If you fancy getting an insight into racing in the country that’s providing many of the sports most exciting riders - the Tour Colombia starts on Tuesday.

Stages

Stage 1: Tuesday 11th February, Tunja - Tunja (TTT), 16.7 km  
Stage 2: Wednesday 12th February, Paipa - Duitama, 152 km  
Stage 3: Thursday 13th February, Paipa - Sogamoso, 178 km  
Stage 4: Friday 14th February, Paipa - Santa Rosa de Viterbo, 169 km  
Stage 5: Saturday 15th February, Paipa - Zipaquirá, 175 km  
Stage 6: Sunday 16th February, Zipaquirá - Alto del Verjón, 183 km

Total Distance 874 km