Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) believes Colombian riders will have no trouble competing in Europe when racing returns this summer, arguing that they might even have an advantage given their ability to train at altitude.
Due the coronavirus pandemic, Colombia has banned international flights until August 31, raising question marks about whether the likes of Higuita, Egan Bernal, and Nairo Quintana will be able to travel to race.
The reshaped UCI calendar begins in July, with WorldTour racing returning on August 1 at Strade Bianche and the Tour de France getting underway on August 29.
"There will be a way – that’s for sure," Higuita said in an interview with Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
"It might be that all the riders who are going to travel take a decision. I don’t know – maybe a charter flight with WorldTour and pro riders. The government should help us. Or maybe a humanitarian flight, in case the borders are still closed.”
Higuita and his compatriots will likely have to arrive in Europe in good time, in order to avoid any possible complications relating to the quarantining of international arrivals.
"The rules aren’t clear. We have to arrive, do tests, and then we’ll know more about what the conditions will be, and we’ll know what options we have so as not to lose out on training.
"There is fear [about travelling to Europe], certainly, but we have to take the precautions to avoid contagion. When we return to competition, the organisers will take the necessary measures. In Europe there are strict regulations. Those countries are seeing an improvement and I hope there won’t be a risk of contagion."
When it comes to racing, Higuita doesn’t feel Colombians will be disadvantaged by the coronavirus restrictions in their country, which saw them unable to train outdoors until mid-May. Oliver Naesen recently argued those who’ve been able to train outside throughout - such as in Belgium and Holland - would have an advantage in what he termed a ‘two-speed’ peloton.
"The majority of us live at altitude and I believe that it’s us who have the advantage, because we can train at more than 2000 metres above sea level, whereas in Europe they’ve not been able to do that," Higuita said.
Higuita has had a storming start to his WorldTour career since joining EF Pro Cycling mid-way through last season, finishing second at the Tour of California, fourth at Tour de Pologne, and 14th at the Vuelta a España, where he won a stage.
He started 2020 in similar fashion, winning the Colombian road race title and the Tour Colombia before heading to Europe and placing third overall at Paris-Nice.
"COVID-19 put the brakes on me a little, but it hasn’t clipped my wings," the 22-year-old said.
As for his plans for when racing returns, Higuita hopes to ride the Tour de France, although his programme is not yet decided.
"I’d like to do the Tour, I’m motivated for it. I have a good opportunity to race it, but it’s too early to talk about that," he said.
“I’ll do the Ardennes Classics and Il Lombardia. La Flèche Wallonne is a race where, if I’m in good shape, I will fight for victory. It suits my characteristics because it’s a hard race and the finish on the Mur de Huy excites me."
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