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Colombia hoping to complete cycling rebirth on the Gavia and Stelvio

IVREA, Italy (VN) — Team Colombia hopes to take advantage of the Giro d’Italia’s final high-mountain stages this week and continue the country’s cycling rebirth.

In the cold French ski town Valloire early this morning, general manager Claudio Corti discussed the weather. The Giro’s 16th leg was ready to depart and head back into Italy, where the week’s forecast gave him little reason to smile.

The Italian journeyman put out his cigarette and expressed his concerns.

“When the Giro organizer RCS Sport selected our team as a wildcard, I was already thinking about the Gavia-Stelvio stage to Val Martello,” he told VeloNews. “I’d be very sorry if we don’t do this stage because it’s the only one that’s raced completely at attitude, with two passes at 2600 and 2700 meters.”

RCS Sport is thinking about cutting the Gavia and Stelvio passes out of Friday’s stage 19 and arriving to Val Martello from the east if snow prohibits passage. A decision will only be made on Friday morning.

John Atapuma exited the team’s black bus, dressed for the cold start up the Col du Télégraphe. Corti looked at him. He believes Atapuma could win the Val Martello stage, or the day after to Tre Cime di Lavaredo if the weather holds. It would be ideal as Andreas Botero is visiting to follow the two stages. He heads the Colombian Ministry of Sport, which sponsors the team.

Atapuma, 25, last year won the Passo Pordoi stage in the Giro del Trentino and placed second in the Amgen Tour of California’s Mount Baldy stage.

“Colombia is very content of our showing. Clearly, though, we still want to win a stage, which would be the best for our team,” Corti added. “We have good riders here; we had four in the final group at three kilometers to go on the Galibier. Atapuma is the most adapted to do something that day to Val Martello and [Fabio] Duarte could go with the other favorites if attacks don’t go.”

A golden era for Colombia

Colombian cycling is enjoying a golden era thanks to its namesake UCI Pro Continental team and riders like Rigoberto Urán and Sergio Henao (Sky). What it has now is something as powerful, if not more so, than it had in the 1980s, when Luis Herrera won the Tour de France’s Alpe d’Huez stage and Café de Colombia sponsored a major team.

Last week, Urán gave Colombia its 16th stage win in the Giro d’Italia. Sitting third overall, he is ready to give his country its first top-five GC result since Oliviero Rincon’s fifth in 1995. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) could add to the celebrations if he keeps hold of the young riders’ white jersey.

After Atapuma rode to sign-in, Corti said the Giro was helping Colombia.

“We are now seeing the strong riders, like Urán, finally showing well. Urán’s already been here for seven years. He’s been able to improve on his training and riding,” Corti said. “My team, these boys will be much stronger in three or four years than what they are now. Racing the Giro helps them understand their physical limits and how they can really suffer on a bike for three weeks.”

Corti, for now, will keep an eye on the weather forecast. A sunny day or two could help his riders fulfill his dream.