The only Colombian to have worn the yellow jersey at the Tour de France (in 2003 while riding for US Postal), Victor Hugo Peña thought his career was close to an end following the fiasco of Rock Racing, but he is back in business on the European scene with newly-promoted Pro Continental team Colombia ès Pasion-Café de Colombia.
He spoke to Cyclingnews after stage 4 of the Presidential Tour of Turkey.
“This has been one of the hardest days in my cycling career. I suffered at 120%. As far as I remember, only the stage up to the Anglirù at the 2000 Vuelta a España, when it was wet and slippery, was harder," the Colombian commented.
Starting with a climb from the coastal town of Marmaris, the race was made difficult by the rain, the terrain to reach the world heritage site of Pamukkale and some road works.
“On days of racing like this, you need a lot of motivation for to race,” Peña said.
“As long as I’m a rider, I never complain. I’m happy to still be able to do that on a bike. I’ve never lost motivation for cycling."
“After my years with Vitalicio, US Postal, Phonak and Unibet, I sometimes thought my career was coming to an end because Rock Racing wanted to become a Pro Continental team and it didn’t happen. It was hard for me to be out of the European cycling scene in 2007 but I got the call last year to bring my experience to this Colombian team and I’m extremely happy to be here again.”
Peña returned to the old continent for the Volta a Catalunya at the end of March and took part in a few Spanish races before heading to Turkey.
“It’s fantastic to see cycling happening in any part of the world, like here, Argentina or Chile, where there’s not the same big tradition for the sport as in Europe or Colombia”, he said. “One of our big goals this year is to win the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China in July. We’ll take our young climbers there.” Among them is last year’s winner of the Tour de l’Avenir, Nairo Quintana.
“I’m here to help develop,” Peña stated. “I still have dreams for myself. For example, I’d like to win the Tour of Colombia before I retire. It’s going to be difficult but why not. I want to keep racing for a few more years. I’m not the oldest rider in the peloton. Andrea Noè is here at the Tour of Turkey at the age of 42 and he doesn’t look bored. Alessandro Petacchi is the same age as me and he won today. He doesn’t look old!”
Sooner or later, however, Peña will end his racing career in order to become a directeur sportif.
“There’s a long history between Colombia and the Tour de France, I want to keep this history running,” he said. “We want to bring this team to the Tour de France by 2014. It would be great to do it in 2013, just ten years after I had the yellow jersey. It would be a nice symbol for the 110th anniversary of the race.”
The 2013 edition of the Grande Boucle will also be the 100th edition.