Dispatches – Vince Gee – Tour of Colombia
VINCE GEE AND HIS AEVOLO CYCLING TEAM RECENTLY COMPETED IN THE TOUR OF COLOMBIA, A UCI 2.1 STAGE RACE, WHERE THEY WENT UP AGAINST SOME OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN ROAD CYCLING. NOT BAD FOR A BUNCH OF U-23 RIDERS! TEAM MECHANIC VINCE GEE COMPARES THE ATMOSPHERE TO THAT OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE, AND HAVING WORKED PRIOR FOR US POSTAL, VINCE DEFINITELY KNOWS WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT. HE’S GOT THIS TO SAY ABOUT THE TEAM’S TIME IN COLOMBIA:
Our Aevolo team was invited to the Tour of Colombia. A UCI 2.1 stage race in/around the city of Medellin that would feature 6 World Tour teams, 7 Pro Continental teams and FIFTEEN continental teams for a total of 28 teams of 6 riders each. A big field and a powerful field. Almost every team had at least 1 Colombian rider on it except ours and a few national teams such as the Italian national team and a few other trade teams without Colombian riders such as the Swiss IAM cycling team.
This would be my second ever trip to the country of Colombia and I was really excited. Mainly because on my last trip, I literally only saw the hotel and the indoor velodrome and of course the police escorted bus ride to and from the hotel and velodrome. So excited to get to see some Colombian countryside.
The race was very well organized with things such as delivery of 5 gallon jugs of bottled water and 25 lb bags of ice for the soigneurs. A permanent 9 passenger van driver (more on that later) and a 10 x 20 tent at the start/finish of each stage. The mechanics’ area for 6 of the teams plus ours was in the underground parking garage. All with 4 daily police to watch over/secure our equipment.
The hospitality was amazing, even from those who were really not directly involved in our invitation. The small Colombian Bet Play team loaned us rollers to warm up for the TTT stage for example. The Coldeportes mechanic loaned me a work stand when he saw me working without one (he did not know mine was still in Miami and on the next day’s flight). He also offered me soap and degreaser and a power washer to help wash bikes. Those were just a few of the super friendly acts of hospitality we were greeted with.
Going back a bit, we were picked up by a van driver and a box truck to take our equipment to our hotel. Our van driver was none other than Jose Patrocinio Jimenez who won the Coors International Bicycle Classic in 1984. A pretty popular cyclist from Colombia. And he was OUR driver. His enthusiasm was so great to see each day he helped our team. From loading bikes to driving to a host of other things that were not in his job description.
The racing was hard yet amazing with many of the Colombians at their “Columbian World Championships” trying to show what they have to the world. The Colombians rode with so much heart, it made for great racing. But for me, one of the coolest things we saw were the cheering Colombian crowds. They were lining the roads like one of the biggest races in the world. The Tour de France is arguably the biggest most popular race in the world. And the crowds in Colombia rivaled those at the Tour de France. With the exception of “Vamos” versus “Allez”, you would think you were in France in July.