A warm welcome to Cyclingnews' newest blogger, Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling). Sergio is wearing the Colombian champion's jersey as he rides his first Tour de France at the age of 23, and in his first blog he tells us what it means to him to be here.
The Tour de France is a dream come true for me.
It's a dream that began when I was 11. It was 2009 when I first came across the Tour de France on TV, Astana were there with Contador and Armstrong, and I vividly remember those bikes they were riding when they won the team time trial.
What stands out from that Tour was Contador winning a stage on a summit finish and doing his 'pistolero' salute. That’s something that has stayed with me my whole life. I loved the way Contador raced.
Soon after, I got my first road bike, and that’s how the dream started. I’d go out in the hills around Medellin, imagining I was racing in the Tour de France.
As I got more and more into my riding, I got more and more interested in the history of the sport. I would download all these videos of old Tours, the 1990s editions, the Miguel Indurain years, and I’d follow them like a fan. I’d get home from school, go ride for a bit, then come home and immediately – even if I had homework – download these videos. Time trials, mountain stages, sprints, whatever it was, I’d watch it.
I became glued to cycling. I started to follow the other Grand Tours, the Giro and Vuelta, but the Tour was always the special one. I’d get into bed at night and, before going to sleep, I’d look over at my road bike, then close my eyes and picture myself in the Tour.
The first time I saw the Tour in person was seven years later. It was 2016 and I was in my first year with Manzana Postobon. We were doing some races in Europe and were about to travel from the Giro Valle d’Aosta in Italy to a race in the Basque Country, around the time a Tour stage was passing nearby in Switzerland. Our whole team stopped by the side of the road and we saw the caravan go by, then Alaphilippe and Tony Martin – it was that day they were in that crazy breakaway together – and finally the peloton.
I really fell in love with the Tour that day. You could feel the passion. I said to myself, ‘I want to be in there’.
And now here I am. It’s not quite how I imagined it. This year, because of the pandemic, it’s a different kind of Tour. When you think of the Tour, you think of the fans, but here they are very separate. Still, when I arrived in Nice, I felt I was achieving my dream.
Every bike rider in the world wants to ride the Tour de France, but very few actually manage it, so when I was on the stage at the teams presentation in Nice, it was such a special feeling. There were nerves, there was pride, and I was constantly messaging my family and my girlfriend back home, showing them what it was all like, bombarding them with photos and videos. It was a special day.
The first few stages have gone well. It’s been a hard start, with all the nerves, but I’ve tried to stay calm. There were so many crashes on the first day, and I was trying so hard to stay on my bike because I’d crashed at the Dauphiné and didn’t want to do so again at the Tour. The second stage was one I was really able to enjoy. It suited my characteristics, with hard climbs and an explosive finale. I wish Alaphilippe wasn’t so strong, and I might have been sprinting for the victory, but he deserved it.
I’ve become good friends with Julian since the Tour Colombia earlier this year, where I beat him in a sprint on stage 4. When you beat a rider like that, with so much talent and experience, you earn the respect of that person, and from there we got closer and closer. I would have loved to have won that stage but I can’t say I was unhappy to see Julian win and dedicate it to his father, who died recently. As I progress, I want to emulate his aggression and his ability to put on a show.
As for these three weeks, I’m just trying to soak it all up. I’m here, shoulder-to-shoulder with the best riders in the world. I’m now looking back, picturing myself as that kid who was dreaming up this very scenario, because I never want to lose that passion, that magic.
Cycling, you always have to enjoy it. I want to be happy on the bike. Results matter, and they come with hard work, but I want to enjoy the races, the experiences. And that’s it, that’s my main motivation in this Tour. If I manage to win a stage or not, it doesn’t matter too much. I’m very young and I know I’ll have many more opportunities in the future, and maybe further down the line my mentality will change. But this Tour for me is about enjoyment, about being happy.
I’ll work hard, I’ll give my all, and I’ll tear myself apart for my teammates when needs be, of course, but all the while enjoying it, all the while feeling happy to be out there, because it’s a dream come true.
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