5. Luis “Lucho” Herrera

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  • Published Jan. 15, 2014
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Every once in a while, a cyclist follows a rags-to-riches trajectory that captivates a nation. The Colombian Luis Herrera was one such rider, a precursor to his modern-day equivalent Nairo Quintana. Born into poverty, his natural talent bolstered by the constant climbing and high altitude of his home country mountains, “Lucho” initially caught the eye of the world at the Coors Classic in Colorado. But it was in his debut performance at the Tour de France in 1984 during which he planted the flag of Colombia squarely among the sunflowers of a July summer. When all eyes looked toward the brewing duel between Bernard Hinault and his former understudy Laurent Fignon on l’Alpe d’Huez, Herrera glided away. His victory on the stage made him an instant national hero. He received a call from the president of Colombia that evening, congratulating him on the win — the first in Tour history by an amateur and a Colombian — and the honor he brought to the nation. Two more stage victories at the Tour came in 1985. Both came in mountain stages, of course. A third was his for the taking; instead, he gifted it to compatriot Fabio Parra. Herrera became a more complete rider as his career continued on, so much so that he won the Vuelta a España in 1987, besting Fignon and Pedro Delgado in the process. He then scared eventual winner Stephen Roche at the Tour with his climbing prowess. “When Herrera wants to go, there’s nothing any of the rest of us can do about it. On the climbs, he’s in a class of his own,” Roche said. Unfortunately, Herrera never had a strong team to support him. Regardless, he took his second king of the mountains jersey in 1987 and fifth overall at Le Grand Boucle. Photo: AFP

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