The late admission to the WorldTour of Swiss outfit IAM Cycling has promoted a 15th Colombian into the big league of cycling.
Jarlinson Pantano, 26, made his move from Team Colombia and added one more name to the diaspora that includes Carlos Betancur (AG2R-La Mondiale), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step), José Serpa (Lampre-Merida), the Quintana brothers and Winner Anacona (Movistar), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), Janier Acevedo (Cannondale-Garmin), Sergio and Sebastian Henao (Sky), Edward Beltran (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Julian Arredondo (Trek).
Only five World Teams, namely FDJ, Lotto-Soudal, LottoNL, Giant-Alpecin and Katusha don’t have a Colombian on board.
“Everyone knows that Colombian cycling has a lot of talents,” Pantano told Cyclingnews on the start line of stage 2 of the Santos Tour Down Under in Unley.
According to coaches, including Michel Thèze and Sébastien Duclos, who nurtured him at the UCI cycling center the same year as Chris Froome (2007), the Cali native is one of the biggest talents. He finished third overall in the 2010 Tour de l’Avenir that made his teammate Quintana a huge cycling prospect (Andrew Talansky was second). Having raced for Colombian teams only at Colombia ès Pasion and Team Colombia, he’s expected by many to step up this year after moving to an international organization.
“IAM Cycling wasn’t a World team yet when I signed but it was already a team participating to most of the biggest races in the world,” Pantano said. “They did the Tour de France and the Vuelta last year. Now I have the opportunity to take part in all the biggest races in the world.
“I’ve been recruited for doing a big work for our captain, Mathias Frank, in the mountains. I’m scheduled for racing the Volta Catalunya, Flèche wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Dauphiné and the Tour de France if there’s any possibility. I love the route this year with a lot of uphill finishes.”
Pantano said that having completed the Giro d’Italia on two occasions, he feels physically ready for the Tour.
“I also feel sorry for my friends from Team Colombia that they haven’t got the wild card for the Giro this year,” he said. “We’ve always done well there. Personally, I got close to winning a stage twice [third on stage 9 in Firenze in 2013, third again on stage 14 atop Oropa in 2014] but it’s never easy to win. I hope they’ll get an invitation for the Vuelta.”
Ahead of the Santos Tour Down Under, Pantano was named by Australian champion Heinrich Haussler as IAM Cycling’s big hope for the overall classification.
“If I’m well in the hills, I’ll target the top 10 but without pressure,” Pantano said. “I’ve trained well for this race. I’ll give my best, especially on Saturday in Willunga, but the climbs here aren’t my favorites. They require a lot of power. It’s more difficult for me when it’s explosive. I prefer when the climbs take a 30 minutes long effort.”
Colombians might be everywhere on WorldTour teams’ rosters, but Pantano is the only one competing in South Australia.