Sergio Henao celebrated winning his first Colombian national road race title with his family on Monday before heading back to Europe to be part of Team Sky's squad for Paris-Nice, which begins on Sunday.
The 29-year-old overcame a crash and mechanical problems to win the Colombian title on a circuit in Bogota National Park. Henao, which a noticeable hole in his jersey, finished the race alone and in pain 49 seconds ahead of Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo), who won the time trial title on Friday, and 22-year-old Oscar Quiroz (GW Shimano). Expected favourite and Bogota resident Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) was unable to race due to a knee injury.
"It’s a dream come true," Henao said after collecting his medal and Colombian national champion’s jersey on the podium.
"Everything went very well. It was a nice victory. When I was close to getting the victory I thought about my family, my mother and my father and all the people who have supported me in the team, and in God, who has given me the life and fortune of being able to ride a bike."
Last summer Henao missed out on a chance for a medal in the Olympic road race after crashing out with Vincenzo Nibali on the final descent of the race. He suffered a fracture to his iliac crest and trauma to his thorax, ending his 2016 season.
He was part of Team Sky squad for the Tour Down Under in January and used the race to find his form before the Colombian national championships.
"I’m really happy because I remember what happened to me at the Rio Olympic Games in August, because of the fall I missed the chance of medal. Today I am celebrating and I feel very good, not everything can be always be bad, and this medal makes up for it.
"I crashed during the seventh lap of the hilly 239km race. My front wheel was broken and luckily nothing else happened and everything was solved quickly. It was a very demanding circuit, so I feel a little sore, but the important thing was that I got the gold medal. The national jersey will be in good hands and will be well represented at Team Sky team."
Henao will race in the yellow, blue and red Colombian national champion’s jersey for the first time at Paris-Nice. In the absence of Chris Froome, Henao is likely to have a leadership role alongside Wout Poels and Kenny Elissonde.