By Anthony Tan in Brescia, Italy
Born July 6, 1979 in Medellin, Colombia, Giro stage 14 winner Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez only began cycling at 16 years old. His father, a farmer, didn't come from a cycling background but his cousins were keen cyclists, and it was his uncle, Bengemeno, who gave him his first bike and shoes to start pedalling.
After one year as an amateur, Laverde landed a contract with Italian team Formaggi Trentini for the 2002 season, unusual in that most young up-and-comers were (and still are) picked up by Selle Italia team manager Gianni Savio. The following year, the team became known as Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé-Ciarrocchi Immobiliare, where he took a victory on the fourth stage of the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda.
"My first win was a surprise because I thought there was a break at the front and I didn't know I had won. But today I knew I was in the break and going for the win!" Laverde exclaimed at yesterday's press conference in Domodossola.
Again with Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavé, he finished 15th overall in the 2004 Giro d'Italia and fourth at the Giro dell'Appennino, which led to a change of teams at the end of the season. The next year, riding for Ceramica Panaria-Navigare, Laverde finished third in the Colombian road championship on April 9, but from then until yesterday, he was without a result and badly needed one.
"It was a beautiful win today, the best of my career," affirmed Laverde after his victory on the 14th stage of the Giro d'Italia.
Asked if he prayed for the win, he smiled before answering. "No, normally I pray at the hotel during the night or maybe in the morning, but during the stage, I don't have time to do it.
"This win is really emotional for me... maybe I don't realise [the significance of what I've done] now, but it's great. It's difficult to be famous in Colombia; to be famous in Colombia for cycling, you have to be world champion, but maybe after today, I will be a little bit more famous," Laverde said.