Jaramillo Diaz shines recent North American road races

Daniel Alexander Jaramillo Diaz has raced only a handful of days in the US during his brief career, but the 23-year-old Colombian has already grabbed headlines for his Jamis-Hagens Berman squad by winning the mountains jersey at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and taking two stage wins last week at the UCI 2.2 Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.

Jaramillo won both Gila stages that ended with uphill finishes, including conquering the infamous Gila Monster on the final day. He also took home the mountains classification and the competition for best young rider at the New Mexican tour.

Jaramillo wore the Gila's red leader's jersey into the stage 3 time trial, a 26km test that included two relatively short climbs and corresponding descents. But he surrendered nearly two minutes to stage winner Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) during the stage and lost the overall lead to eventual race winner Carter Jones (Optum Pro Cycling). Jaramillo's teammate, Gregory Brenes, finished second overall at the race, just two seconds behind Jones.

Although five years his junior, Jaramillo is on a similar pace as former Jamis rider Janier Acevedo, a fellow Colombian who stormed the US circuit last year and now rides for the Garmin-Sharp WorldTour team.

This season marks Jaramillo's fourth at the UCI Continental level, but it's his first time racing full time outside of Colombia. Jaramillo rode for Gobernation de Antioquia-Indeportes team in 2011 and 2012. He moved from that team, which is sponsored by the regional government where he lives, onto the Colombia-Coldeportes team in 2013. Jaramillo signed with Jamis-Hagens Berman in the off-season.

Cyclingnews submitted the following questions for Jaramillo to Jamis-Hagens Berman director Sebastian Alexandre, who translated them for his young rider.

Cyclingnews: Could you tell us a little about your home life? Where do you live? Where did you grow up?

Jaramillo: I live in La Ceja, Antioquia, with my mother and sister. I grew up in Jardin, a very small town of 16,000.

CN: How did you get introduced to cycling and racing?

Jaramillo: I started in a program called CEDEC, which was created by the Antioquia government to help kids to get into the sport. It was for runners and cyclists. I started as a runner because I did not have a bike. After six months, I was told that I should go to cycling as the future was better, and I said fine, but I did not have a bike. So they loaned me a bike and I started to train.

CN: When did you realize you might have enough talent to pursue international cycling as a professional career?

Jaramillo: When after three months of riding my bike, they took me to race the "Vuelta del Futuro" [the biggest Junior race in Colombia], and I finished third overall. My dream started that day ...

CN: What do you consider the most significant result in your career so far? Which result is most special to you personally?

Jaramillo: The most important and special one was the general classification at Vuelta Juventud (the U23 Vuelta Colombia) in 2011.

CN: Sebastian said this season is your first racing outside of Colombia. How do you like it so far?

Jaramillo: I like it very much to race in the US. It is very different than how we race in Colombia, but I want to improve in every aspect, and I know I need to be more a complete rider to be able to race at the WorldTour level.

CN: How does racing in the US compare to racing at home? What are some of the similarities and differences?

Jaramillo: In Colombia there are a lot more mountains, all the races have big mountains on it. In the domestic season here in the US, you have mostly flat races with some mountain days. The Gila Monster stage is one of the hardest in the US, but it would be a normal day of a race in Colombia. I really look forward to race in Utah and Colorado, where I heard there are some really challenging courses.

CN: We've heard that you know and sometimes train with former Jamis-Hagens Berman rider and current Garmin-Sharp rider Janier Acevedo, a fellow Colombian. Did he offer you any advice about racing in the US? Did you talk at all about the Tour of the Gila or the Amgen Tour of California?

Jaramillo: Janier spoke very highly about Sebastian and the Jamis-Hagens Berman team, and it was one of the important reasons for me when I decided to join the team. After that I trained with him a couple of times, but I haven't spoken with him much about the races. He knows I am in good hands.

CN: What are your personal goals for next week in California?

Jaramillo: My goal is to try to win a stage - and I know I can do it - and hopefully I can finish in the top 10 at the end of the race.

CN: Have you had the opportunity to pre-ride any of the California stages? Have you singled out any climb that you think might suit your particular skills the best?

Jaramillo: We haven't done any of the stages this year, but I know there are two stages with uphill finishes, and those ones will be my target.

CN: Janier set a high standard for Jamis-Hagens Berman last year with his stage wins and podium finishes in California, Utah and Colorado. Does that add any extra pressure for you or your teammates to duplicate or better his results this year?

Jaramillo: Of course it does. Janier had a tremendous year in 2013, and we know people and sponsors are expecting us to repeat. We will be again the small team in the race that is competing side by side with the best ones. The team did it last year, and hopefully we will do it again. I have a lot of confidence in the team we have, and I know we will have a great performances in the race. Hopefully with podiums, but definitely you will see us riding well.

CN: You lost the overall lead at the Tour of the Gila during the time trial. Is this a skill you can improve on, or do you consider yourself a pure climber only?

Jaramillo: I never had the chance to train for a TT in my career. I always train for climbs. Now I realize how important it is to improve on, and it is something I have to get better at if I want to continue progressing in my cycling career.

CN: What are your ultimate goals in cycling?

Jaramillo: I would like to have a great season in the US with my team, and for the future my dream is to race in a WorldTour team and be able to race a BIG Tour.

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