For the Pro-Continental Team Colombia, securing a wild card invitation to the 2014 Giro d'Italia was a moment of joy. However the Italian-based team, created in 2012 by former Saeco and Barloworld team manager Claudio Corti with funding secured from the Colombian government, has not enjoyed an easy preparation for the race.
With the Giro's grand partenza in Northern Ireland, the team’s riders needed to apply for two visas – for the UK and Republic of Ireland. The team was in attendance at the Giro route presentation and Fabio Duarte, who finished a strong runner-up behind Vincenzo Nibali in the snow at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo last year, will lead the team in 2014.
When contacted by Cyclingnews asking about the visa issues, Team Colombia press officer David Evangelista explained the process the team has undertaken to ensure its riders are ready for the Belfast opener on May 9.
"First of all, let me tell you that the visa business for all non-European riders – and particularly for South-American riders – is particularly difficult. All the riders needed to file for two visas, UK and Republic of Ireland, and the embassies did not look particularly "sensible" to the demands and peculiarities of a cycling job," Evangelista said.
"The Team did all its due diligence, activating in advance in order to make the riders' calendar comply with the embassy's requirements – that meant withholding the riders' passports for days or weeks – and still have everything in place in time for the Giro."
While the issue is particularly pertinent for the team, fellow Colombians Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who was second overall last year, and Trek Factory Racing's Julian Arredondo reportedly also had issues in their applications.
As Evangelista explained, only four riders needed to apply for visas in Colombia. "All the riders filed for visas in Italy, where the team sustained costs to activate an urgency procedure and make sure everything run smoothly. Only four riders, who went training in altitude in Colombia in April, had to file for visas at the UK Embassy in Colombia, and three of them – [Miguel Angel] Rubiano, [Jarlinson] Pantano, [Carlos] Quintero – were denied due to procedural reasons."
Rubiano recently won the Colombian national road race title and the team launched a social media campaign letting fans decide the design of the jersey he will wear for the Giro.
"It was possibly due to some misunderstandings between the riders and the office, as it happened for several others, as the riders had the whole necessary paperwork in place and set up by the team (tickets, itineraries, documents etc.)."
While the team has had several changes to the pre-race preparation, the preliminary Giro start list released by race organisers RCS name all the rider who have encountered visa issues.
"As a consequence, Pantano and Quintero flew to Italy, already have a procedure in place at the UK Embassy and should have their visa released just in time to fly to Belfast with the urgency procedure, even though the timing is very strict. Instead, Rubiano had to make a second request in Colombia, as he was promised his visa would be released by Wednesday, April 23rd, and will fly to Europe right after that."
"This mishap obviously caused some upsets, and forced the team to make some changes in the races' plans, but in the end – hopefully – everything will be set by the time the team flies to Belfast on May 6."
Provisional start list for the 2014 Giro d'Italia: Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo, Juan Arango Carvajal, Edwin Alcibiades Ávila Vanegas, Robinson Chalapud, Leonardo Duque, Jarlinson Pantano, Carlos Quintero, Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor and Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez.