El Dorado at last
Pena finally conquers Europe for ColombiaPosted: Wednesday July 09, 2003 1:09 PM
Updated: Wednesday July 09, 2003 1:16 PM
ST DIZIER, France (Reuters) -- In 1983, Colombian riders crossed the Atlantic for the first time to try and conquer Europe and it took 20 years for one of them to find gold -- the Tour de France yellow jersey.
Lucho Herrera, who was King of the Mountains in 1985, and Fabio Parra, third in 1988, both failed.
The honor finally fell to Victor Hugo Pena, one day before his 29th birthday.
"I'm a living example of the history of cycling in Colombia," said Pena, who started his sporting career as a swimmer, making the national team in the 200 meters and 400 meters medley.
"Exactly 20 years ago, the first Colombian cycling team went to Europe. They had a slogan at the time -- 'we're going to conquer Europe'.
"I remember the radio broadcasts at the time. The whole country was at a standstill listening to the Tour, idolizing riders like Herrera or Parra.
"Every time there was another Colombian rider who was doing well, cycling was getting deeper in our blood.
"Today, the old slogan has become a fact and I was able to achieve it because I belong to the best team in the world, Lance Armstrong's team," he said.
Pena, who became the first Colombian rider to win a time trial on the Giro d'Italia in 2000 differs from most of his compatriots who are climbers.
He said he owed a lot to Armstrong, who set an incredible pace in the 69-km team time trial won by his U.S. Postal team in the Tour fourth stage on Wednesday.
"Lance also proved he was the best teammate in the world," Pena said.
The rider from Bogota said cycling had been a family affair as his father was a track rider, specializing in pursuit.
"I always told my teammates that Colombia was like a little Belgium, that everybody was cycling-mad back home.
"My dad was a track rider and I can remember my mother washing his bike. I could not fail to be interested in cycling.
"I first picked swimming as a sport and my father did not want to let me try cycling, saying it was too hard. But we made a deal and I started with the track, becoming Colombian pursuit champion in 1996," he said.
Pena then became pro and in turn made the journey hoping to become a cycling conquistador.
After spells with Vitalicio and Kelme, he joined U.S. Postal. Simply the best team in the world.
Injured Hamilton merely 'satisfied' with Tour ride
ST DIZIER, France (Reuters) -- Anyone else would have been happy just to make it to the finish, but Tyler Hamilton was only "satisfied" with his performance in Wednesday's Tour de France team time trial after again riding through the pain of a broken collarbone.
Hamilton and his CSC Tiscali team mates finished 10th, one minute 45 seconds behind Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal team who won the 69-km stage from Joinville to Saint Dizier.
"It was a very difficult stage because you have to go hard all the way in the team time trial and my shoulder was hurting a lot. I wasn't super strong, I'd hoped to be stronger but I suppose I have to be satisfied," said Hamilton.
The American suffered the injury in a crash at the end of the first stage of the Tour on Sunday and has defied medical advice to continue riding.
"My shoulder hurt more today that yesterday but I was very motivated to do well because I wanted to help my team and especially our new team leader Carlos Sastre," he said.
"By working hard I think I gained about one and half minutes for the team. If you have only eight riders in the team time trial it makes a big difference and that's why I decided to carry on after breaking my collarbone on Sunday," added the American.
Hamilton, who was regarded as a contender for the Tour title before his accident, is 39th in the overall standings, 1:45 behind leader Victor Hugo Pena.
It seems that completing the three-week race is not enough for the 32-year-old, who finished second in last year's Giro d'Italia with a broken shoulder.
"If I'd been struggling today I'd have told them to go on without me, I don't want to be a handicap, but I'm not continuing in the Tour just to make it to the finish," he said.
I've already finished the Tour six times. I want to fight on to help Carlos Sastre and even do something myself, he said.
"I'm going to take it day by day and then see what happens in the first mountains stage on Saturday, it'll be a decisive day. I know I won't ever be 100 percent but I might be at 95 percent later on and so perhaps I can do something."
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