An interview with Ivan Parra, June 12, 2005
At 29 years old, Ivan Parra (Selle Italia-Colombia) is not a young rider. But at that age, he found huge success in his sporting career, winning two of the most difficult mountain stages in the Giro d'Italia. Cyclingnews' Hernan Alvarez Macias speaks to a man enjoying victory at long last.
Parra is one of the last successful Colombian climbers, in the same mould as his brother Fabio. He didn't have a team to ride for at the start of the year, but director Gianni Savio had faith him, which Parra returned in spades with back-to-back stage wins.
It was on the thirteenth stage of the Giro that Parra first came into the limelight, winning the stage to Ortisei on his own after an almost 200 kilometre-long breakaway. Then quite incredibly, he did it again the following day, and after more than 350 kilometres out in front over the past two days, he found his second success in Livigno.
"He has been my tutor, my advisor, my friend, but above all, my brother" - Ivan Parra on his brother Fabio, himself a successful cyclist in the '80s
Cyclingnews: It was an unforgettable Giro d'Italia for you, right?
Ivan Parra: Yes, indeed. It was a very big reunion with the victory and I hope next year will be also good like this one.
CN: How was that victory in Ortisei [Stage 13]? On the TV you looked incredibly happy.
IP: Yes, I can't deny it. I was very happy because I had a very tough winter in every aspect, in my personal life and in my job. So, to reunite with the triumph in that way was a compensation for so many bad moments that I had. On the other hand, it was my goal to be able to dedicate a special win to my son who had his birthday one of those days. It's a double satisfaction to achieve that.
CN: And what about your victory in Livigno [Stage 14] - it seems you won with ease?
IP: Yes, apparently everything looks easy. But it was actually very, very hard. Especially because the day before I made a very big effort, but I think my preparation was very specific, very... let's say conscious and that enabled me to have consistency every day. I think that when the chances come, one should get the most of it and that's what I did that day.
CN: Is your final position of 20th on the general classification a bad result for you?
IP: Well, I think that my final general classification should have been higher. But considering the race circumstances on the first days, the many falls and the many problems that I had, then I couldn't succeed in the general classification. However, I had a couple of victories on the toughest stages, in the major mountain stages. I think this shows my quality as a rider and what we can expect for other opportunities when I don't lose time.
CN: Do you think your team, Selle Italia-Colombia, deserves to be one of the 20 ProTour teams?
IP: I think there's no doubt about it if we consider the results. Because it was not only my individual outcome, but also the general attitude of the team every day and how our riders ended up on the podium [Venezuelan Jose Rujano finished third on GC and won the mountains classification - ed.]. So, I think the team's level of results are as good as any other team in the world.
CN: Would you like to ride with a ProTour team, with one of the 20 teams that are currently inside the ProTour?
IP: I don't know if I would be with one of them some day. I would always like to be inside a great team, because I think I have enough quality to be a part of some important team, and for that team to get the best out of me.
CN: Are these your greatest achievements as a rider? It took a long time - you are almost 30 years old - but it came at last...
IP: Well, there are many differing points of view over that. When I was young, people had big expectations of me, and when there are expectations, that means something. However, luck played tricks on me and it was always very difficult to obtain a good result. I was close to great results many times, but I had crashes, diseases or different problems, which did not allow me to obtain great results. Now, at 29 years, I think a great moment has come and I hope the next years are even better. Now, I have more self-confidence, now I know what I'm capable of, and I think from now on I can look for new goals, even more difficult ones.
CN: You raced for many teams like Kelme, ONCE, etc. before your current team Selle Italia-Colombia. From all of them, with which one do you have the best memory? Which one do you prefer?
IP: I think in all the teams I had good experiences and bad experiences. Because I think that in life and in jobs this is the way it is; there are good moments and also bad moments. But that is unconnected with the personal relationship I had with every single director or teammate. I think that everywhere I was, I left friends and I also left doors open. So, I wouldn't dare to say that one team was more special for me because every squad has given me a chance, and I must just thank all the teams.
CN: How is the Colombian cycling nowadays?
IP: Unfortunately it isn't in a good time, because there is little money from sponsors, and we also lack sponsors. We really need more support for all the talent that there is in Colombia.
CN: And what can you do to improve this?
IP: I think that all the riders who have the opportunity to ride here at an international level, and all of us who have obtained big results, should bring them [back] to our country. We need to demonstrate that our [Colombian] cycling is always very competitive, and has a very high level.
On the other hand, we must work hard with the mass media in our country, so they highlight our victories that we get here, because there are many times when our wins are understated. They don't give the wins the importance they really have. I think this is a rather serious problem, that our triumphs aren't important in our country.
CN: How was your brother Fabio's influence, a rider in the 80s, on your cycling career?
IP: His influence was everything! From the beginning he was the reason for me trying to become a cyclist. And once I tried, I got good results. He has been my tutor, my advisor, my friend, but above all, my brother. So, the influence was everything, especially during the hard times, when I worked and I didn't get results. Then it's necessary to have someone like him who helps me not to loose motivation and to keep on working harder in order to achieve the goal the next time I try.
CN: What do you think about Gianni Savio?
IP: I think he is great person, in my case he came to my personal life during a decisive moment. As everybody knows, my professional situation was hard at the beginning of the year, because I didn't have a team to race at the international level. He gave me that opportunity when there was a wild-card for the Giro d'Italia. Then, from that moment, I did, and now always will, thank him for that opportunity. And I thank not only him, but also all the people on the team because they helped me a lot, they received me inside the team very well, and they were fundamental in order to reach the results I obtained this year.
CN: Is it a handicap not to be European, to be Colombian as you are, in order to ride in Europe?
IP: No, I think that when one is in the middle of the race, the level of effort is very high. And in that moment, it doesn't matter if you are tall, short, if you are European, American, South American, whatever. I think there are moments inside the race when what simply matters is if legs go faster or slower. I think everything depends on preparation, mentality, and obviously luck.
CN: How is your racing calendar for the coming months?
IP: I have to race the Vuelta a Colombia in July, which is a team commitment, and then I will come back here to Italy in August. There are plenty of important races here in August. Afterwards, I will be competing at the World Championships in Spain for my country.