Festivities for Tour Colombia 2.1 got off to an impressive start Sunday in Tunja, where the South American country's rabid cycling fans filled the local Premier League football team's stadium to see the riders in person and send them into the week under a hail of cheers and noise.
Loud speakers lining the field blared out pronouncements as the plentiful vuvuzela's vuvuzela'd, with the spectators going mad for each team and rider presented, reaching a crescendo when Team Ineos and their Colombian Tour de France champion Egan Bernal came onto the field.
The teams made their way through a mixed zone of media before heading out for the field, where they rode to the stage at the far end of the pitch on rubber mats lined with local school kids decked out in yellow "Talentos Colombia" jerseys.
Fans leaned against the stadium's seating rails to get closer to their cycling heroes like Green Bay Packers loyalists waiting for a player to do the Lambeau leap into their accepting arms. That didn't happen, and good thing, because we may never have seen that rider again given the over-the-top enthusiasm of all involved.
Local media joined the chaos, jamming into the mixed zone to get a word, any word, from the riders. Any rider who spoke Spanish – and maybe even English – was fair game, even if the journalist may or may not have known who that rider was.
A brass horn section in the stands added to the chaos, and it was enough to get the attention of several North Americans in attendance. Rally Cycling's Kyle Murphy has raced in Colombia previously, and the 28-year-old said the team presentation helped set the tone for the week. Despite having seen the spectacle before, Murphy said it's always special.
"I do't know if I'm used to it," he told Cyclingnews. "It's awesome. It makes it really fun to be here. Just riding out of Bogota the last few days, we've seen hundreds of bikers."
Rally's Robin Carpenter is experiencing Tour Colombia 2.1 for the first time this year, and the breakaway specialist told Cyclingnews he's been impressed so far.
"I'm really stoked to be here," he said. "We've been loving it so far. We've been in Bogota since last week and it's been great. The people are amazing."
The Tour Colombia 2.1 starts Tuesday with a team time trial back in Tunja.
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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