MIRADOR DE EL POTRERO, Argentina (VN) — Colombian Julian Arredondo repaid his new employer, Trek Factory Racing, in a big way on Tuesday in Argentina. Just two days into his professional career, and one year after overall victory at the Tour de Langkawi, he won the first mountain stage of the 2014 Tour de San Luís.
“I’m very happy,” Arredondo said after crossing the finish line above San Luís. “I want to dedicate this victory to my parents and all the fans of Colombian cycling.”
He later thanked his team for protecting him over the wind-swept flat roads leading into the finish climb. His five teammates led him to the base of Mirador de El Potrero, leaving 4.8 kilometers, which averaged 6.7 percent gradient, to race. Spaniard Haimar Zubeldia stayed with him onto the climb, until Arredondo followed an early attack.
“My plan was to watch Nairo Quintana,” Arredondo said. “When [BMC Racing rider] Peter Stetina attacked, I just followed.”
The Colombian neo-pro, winner of the UCI Asia Tour in 2013, followed the American until the final 100 meters, when he shot off the wheel to land an important early victory in his team’s first season.
Over the winter, U.S. bicycle manufacturer Trek took over the racing license of the Luxembourg-based RadioShack team. Managed by former RadioShack GM Luca Guercilena, the team lost several riders — Vuelta a España winner Chris Horner couldn’t come to terms with the team, Tour de France star Jan Bakelants went to Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and Maxime Monfort and Tony Gallopin left for Lotto-Belisol — but kept other key riders. Fabian Cancellara stayed to race for more classics wins and the Schleck brothers, Fränk and Andy, are building to the Tour de France.
Trek Factory Racing also signed 11 fresh faces, all from the Continental and amateur ranks, including Arredondo.
“The team changed a lot,” Guercilena told VeloNews over the winter. “We have an eye on their future and we are going to work with them to develop their best characteristics.”
The future came on Tuesday for the 25-year-old Arredondo.
Colombian Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finished second overall in the Giro d’Italia last year and countryman Nairo Quintana (Movistar), third on Tuesday, finished second in the Tour de France. Sergio Henao (Sky) earned his first look as a grand-tour leader at the Vuelta a España and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) injected excitement into every race he started in 2013, including Flèche Wallonne, where he attacked early on the Mur de Huy. Thirty-four-year-old José Serpa joined Lampre-Merida last year after winning the Tour de Langkawi in 2012. The Colombian escabarajos are everywhere it seems.
This year, 10 Colombians are on first-division roster with UCI ProTeams. Five were already at the sport’s top level last year, and five more doubled that representation during the off-season: Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Sebastian Henao (Sky), Dayer Quintana (Movistar), and Arredondo.
With Claudio Corti’s second-division Colombia team making waves in South America and Europe, there are more riders from the Andean nation coming to the WorldTour. Arredondo, however, came from Japanese team Nippo-De Rosa after winning the Asian continental tour last season.
“It’s a dream come true,” Arredondo said of his chance to race in the first division. “I thank God for this opportunity. I want to use the chance I have to the fullest.”
“The fullest” use of Arredondo’s chance includes a shot at the Giro d’Italia.
In his first race since joining the first division for 2014, American Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp) scored big on Monday by escaping and winning the first stage, with more than four minutes over the big favorites. That advantage may carry him through to an overall win when the tour wraps up on Sunday.
Arredondo put 19 seconds into Gaimon on Tuesday, but has his mind on the Giro d’Italia in May.
“My goal is the Giro d’Italia,” Arredondo said. “I took the surprise win here, but I always train to win. I didn’t come here just to sit in the pack.”
Urán successfully struggled to take second overall from Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) in last year’s Giro. This year, he will lead Omega Pharma at the season’s first grand tour. Quintana and the Colombia team will be there as well when the race starts May 9 in Belfast. Perhaps a new name will join them: Julian Arredondo.