"It feels so good to be back on the top step.” - Sep Vanmarcke …
The fans here are all nuts for cycling but it’s something so beautiful.
If there’s one thing better than one gold medal, it’s two.
This weekend saw EF Education First Pro Cycling riders and Dani Martínez take gold in the time trial and road race respectively, at the Colombian national championships. As they crossed the finish lines crowds of fans gathered around to be a part of their triumphs. Sergio Higuita
“The atmosphere and the energy from the fans after both races was just madness,” explains team sport director, Juanma Garate. “It’s incredible, after the time trail I was trying to get Dani from the finish line to a hotel just across the road for him to get showered, and I had to call the police to come help get us through the crowds of people.
“Then after the road race I had to go with Sergio to anti-doping and again we just couldn’t make our way through the crowds, their passion for cycling is spectacular. The fans here are all nuts for cycling but it’s something so beautiful.” Garate says.
“My family was super happy,” Sergio Higuita says through that huge smile. “When I spoke to them after the race they were telling me about how they were watching it on TV and they were screaming, “Vamos Sergio, vamos!” at the screen, the emotion they felt seeing me race and win makes me feel like I’ve made them proud.”
The road race was a day where strategy prevailed along with some luck, as Higuita crossed the finish line wearing one yellow shoe, one white – a sign the race had a few tales to tell.
“We prepared a strategy for the race because we knew we only had two riders which makes good tactics all the more important” Garate said. As the race took shape, the team’s plan began to pay off. An Ineos rider attacked, and Higuita went with him. That left Martinez in the larger group behind, conserving his energy in case the chasers caught Higuita. “ It all played out exactly how we thought it was going to,” Garate says.
The team also had lady luck on its side.
“Sergio got a puncture, luckily it happened close to where one of our assistants was standing, which helped speed up the wheel change,” Garate says. “Then Sergio also broke one of his shoes and it meant having to swap it mid-race. These are the kind of scenarios that can take riders out of contention for the win,” Garate notes. Not this day though, as Higuita wouldn’t be denied, and Martínez finished third.
Martínez, whose family lives closer and is from the Boyacá region, relished the rare opportunity he gets to have his family at the race to watch him take gold in the time trial on Friday. “My parents were here along with some of my aunts and uncles. It’s great racing with them here, because it doesn’t happen very often it gives you so much motivation to do well knowing they are there in the crowd cheering you on,” Martínez says.
The two victories mark a beautiful start for EF Pro Cycling in this young season, shining a light on individual tenacity and the teamwork needed to win in bike racing.
“You can never underestimate how difficult it is to win a bike race, for every one person who crosses the line first accomplishing their dream, there’s many behind left longing and disappointed,” Garate says. “With everything that happened we felt lucky and extremely happy that we were still able to achieve the best outcome of winning the race. It’s the best type of gratification you can have as a sport director; I came here early before Tour Colombia to help the guys as much as possible, so to see them both win gold medals it makes me so proud to see.”
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