The end of Nairo Quintana, a symptom of the evil that afflicts Colombian cycling | Sports

Nairo Quintana, in the last Tour de France.
Nairo Quintana, in the last Tour de France.MARCO BERTORELLO (AFP)

In Bogotá, sad epitaphs are written, emotional sports obituaries of Nairo Quintana, the best Colombian cyclist of the decade, who, 10 days after his 33rd birthday, finds that there is no European team that wants him after an unusual sanction for taking the painkiller tramadol on Tour. In San Juan, these days of southern summer, the other figures of a cycling that three or four years ago was the envy of the world, now saddens, and finds no compassion.

There are fears for the future of Superman López, also rejected in Europe by the best teams and fired from Astana because the Civil Guard has informed them that they have proof that he has doped and that the anti-doping authorities will open a file on him sooner rather than later. Pedal in hope Egan Bernal, the only non-European cyclist to have won the Giro and Tour, one year after a collision with a bus that caused him multiple fractures and iron injuries to his body; and Fernando Gaviria, the best sprinter on the continent and the best in the world, also speaks of hope, of smiles, of being again after his signing with Movistar. Only Sergio Higuita, the youngest of the so-called golden decade, the latest product of the Medellín school of Luis Fernando Saldarriaga, that of Nairo, Sergio Henao or Esteban Chaves, maintains his substance firmly, and leads an entire German team, the Bora. Absent from San Juan, everyone’s father, Rigo Urán, lives in his world.

Nairo, fired from Arkea, which prevented him from running the Vuelta when his sanction for tramadol was revealed, has called a press conference for Wednesday in Bogotá. Few in Colombia doubt that the winner of a Giro and a Vuelta, of three podiums in the Tour and one more in the Giro, from Tirrenos, Vuelta al País Vasco, Volta a Catalunya, from mountain stages in almost all of them, will announce his retirement. the races in the world… nobody wants to know anything in Europe about a cyclist considered one of the best climbers in the world, a worthy heir to the great Lucho Herrera, still young enough to continue winning.

WorldTour teams, including the Movistar team with which he began his career, would like it, but his sponsors fear. They don’t want to be associated with negative or apparently negative news, because Nairo has never had a doping problem. Those in the second division, those who need an invitation to the best races, suffer blackmail from the organizers, who demand that they join a French professional association, directed by the sulfurous Roger Legeay, called Movement for credible cycling which imposes much stricter rules of conduct and medication than those of the World Anti-Doping Code. None can sign him, although they want it like crazy. Tramadol, for them, was poison even before the World Anti-Doping Agency included it on the list of prohibited substances.

Nairo also does not seem willing to follow the path Superman López, four years younger than him, who does not understand life without continuing to run and has signed for Medellín, a third-class team with which he will play national competitions in Colombia. Superman, whose decline began, perhaps, with his sudden and inexplicable withdrawal from the 2021 Vuelta, two days before finishing on the podium, and with his inevitable departure from Movistar, pedals in the illusion that his return to his country from Monaco It is a parenthesis, a few months in which it will be clear, he promises, that what the Civil Guard can say is false, and what the judge of Cáceres can believe, about his relationship with Vicente Belda Jr., the Astana masseur who supposedly put him an injection of the banned hormone menotropin in the past Giro. Astana has not only fired him, the son of Vicente Belda, investigated like his father and Dr. Marcos Maynar for an alleged plot to sell and distribute medicines, has ceased to appear in the list of assistants published by the team Alexander Vinokurov on his website.

If the fire of the veterans runs out, that of the youth does not catch fire. After Higuita, none of the Colombian cyclists who have come to the WorldTour have been able to live up to his promises and hopes. As in the harsh 90s and 2000s, the runners who devastate their land, in a cycling in which Óscar Sevilla at 47 years old continues to be one of the best, in Europe they drag. Luis Fernando Saldarriaga, whose sponsor closed the Manzana Postobón after two cases of doping, has not found sponsors for his project again, and from the sidelines, he is a television commentator, he does not stop regretting how doping has once again contaminated all processes in your country. Sergio Higuita, coming out of his chest, from a process of sharp rules and values, and patience and work, also regrets that the current processes, the work with the youth, do not resemble the one he or Nairo followed.

While awaiting with curiosity what the young people enrolled in the GW Shimano Sidermec may bring, the team that makes the best young talents in the country available to the veteran Italian director and entrepreneur Gianni Savio so that he can make them run in the European showcase under the directed by Luis Cely. Óscar Sevilla is not very optimistic about the present or the future. For the Spanish cyclist who has settled in Bogotá for 12 years, after Operation Puerto expelled him from European cycling and from Telekom, in which he shone, the problem with young people is that they are immediately deified, that as soon as they win some money they think they are rich, because they have grown up in families without a father, poor, without values, children of a society that does not give them hope.

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