Botero's best success

Three stages and the mountains jersey at the Tour de France, five stages of the Vuelta a España,...

Three stages and the mountains jersey at the Tour de France, five stages of the Vuelta a España, victory in the Classique Des Alpes and world time trial champion, to name just a few. And now the final stage and overall victory at the Tour de Romandie. So which win rates as his best? Anthony Tan discovers that time is now.

"Now, I think I am the happiest man in the world - this is the best success in my life," said Botero to Cyclingnews somewhat surprisingly soon after the race had finished. "Even in comparison to any race [I've done well in] - the Tour, Olympics, world championships... this is the most important success."

Wow.

Compared to Botero's other achievements, which followed a natural progression of success, his victory on Sunday in Lausanne broke a two-year and six-month dry spell, his last being the 2002 world road time trial championship in Zolder, Belgium.

The rainbow jersey, coupled with three Grand Tour stage wins that year, led to a number of lucrative offers, and after six years with Kelme, the team he started out his professional career with back in 1997, Botero opted for T-Mobile. The idea was that the man from Medellin, situated 430 kilometres northwest of Bogota, Colombia, along with Andréas Klöden and Alexandre Vinokourov, were to spearhead a three-pronged attack in an attempt to derail Lance Armstrong's perennial success at the Tour de France.

That didn't happen. Vinokourov did very well, winning a stage and finishing third overall, but Klöden dropped out during the ninth stage, and Botero did the same one week later, a result of ill health and poor form.

The following year, with Ullrich back in the team in 2004, and Klöden riding exceptionally well, Botero's role was more clearly defined to that of lieutenant, but he struggled to be there when he was needed, leading to a parting of ways with T-Mobile and what would be hopefully a new lease of life at Phonak.

As he had done the previous five seasons, he returned to his home in Colombia, 2,700 metres above sea level, and began training again. But this time, it felt different.

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