After spending five seasons on Colombian squads, Darwin Atapuma is poised to make his WorldTour debut in 2014 with BMC. The 25-year-old Colombian made great progress in the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Pro Continental Team Colombia outfit, highlighted by a stage victory in the Giro del Trentino last year and a stage win at the WorldTour-level Tour of Poland this year, and Atapuma is looking forward to new challenges.
"It will be a very different experience," said Atapuma. "I'll be part of one of the biggest teams in cycling, and I am looking forward to face such a challenge. On the other hand, I am really sorry to leave a context I have blended in perfectly, with friends and a number of people who have been huge for me in this couple of years. Without them, I would not have made it to the WorldTour.
"I will always be grateful to Claudio Corti for believing in me, and getting me the opportunity to compete on the world stage. Claudio and the whole technical team always made me feel important, giving their best to support us in any aspects, not only in the sport practice: getting used to a different place and lifestyle was not easy, but sports directors, masseurs, mechanics never let us down or made us feel alone."
With the Colombia team making an Italian base in 2012, Atapuma moved to Italy that January and in April notched the team's first success of the season at the Giro del Trentino's fourth stage, atop the Passo Pordoi. "It was the biggest day in my career," said Atapuma. Barely a month later in the Tour of California's queen stage to Mt. Baldy, Atapuma nearly struck again, but was edged out by Robert Gesink for the win.
In his second year in Europe Atapuma earned a top-20 GC finish in his first Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, and took his and the team's first WorldTour win at the Tour of Poland. The Colombian managed to raise his arms in triumph at the conclusion of stage 6 in Bukovina Tatrzanska with an impressive show of determination.
"In 2013, I showed everyone – and myself in first place – that I could hold on with the strongest in the biggest races in the world. I owe that to the great work made with Sports Directors Valerio Tebaldi, Oscar Pellicioli and Oliverio Rincon, the whole Team Colombia staff and my teammates, who shared my path in a beautiful experience that will imprint my sports career forever."
Atapuma's final major accomplishment as a Team Colombia rider came in September, when he was selected to race the elite road race world championship for Colombia for the very first time. "I was proud to represent one of the strongest national teams at the present time, the expression of a movement that is arguably growing like never before. More and more athletes from Colombia are getting their chance in top cycling, and I believe Team Colombia's project is having a huge role in that, opening doors for young prospects and attracting the media attention on our movement.
"Next year another guy from my village, Tuquerres, will be part of Team Colombia: Pantoja, whose name is Darwin just like me. I hope he, and a lot of Colombian youngsters, will have the opportunity to make the same, outstanding experience I did, in a really unique team in today's cycling. I am not only talking about technical stuff, top organization and cycling experience, but an actual human element I can hardly see in any other outfit. And I am going to miss that a bit, I already know that," Atapuma said.