From the prize-winning cycling writer Matt Rendell comes a book on the incredible rise of Colombian cycling
By winning the 2019 Tour de France, Egan Bernal became the race's youngest champion in 110 years, and the first from the South American nation of Colombia. His victory brought decades of national yearning to to fruition, and capped the achievements of a golden generation of Colombian cyclists.
For, in the years before Egan's victory, Nairo Quintana won the Tours of Italy and Spain, even coming within 72 seconds of winning the Tour. Rigoberto Uran, Esteban Chaves, Miguel Angel Lopez and Fernando Gaviria took stage wins, donned leader's jerseys and made final podiums at cycling's greatest events. They, and other world-class Colombian talents, made their nation a cycling superpower.
Colombia has long been the only developing nation not just competing but contending at cycling's highest level. Yet its cycling sons are not the products of a rigorous sports system that spots them in childhood and and nurtures them through the ranks to the pinnacle of globalised sport. They come from harder backgrounds, that surprise, shock - even, at times, enchant.
And their attainments are not just sporting. The visibility they have secured their homeland has helped open it to international tourism and trade. After decades of violence, corruption and civil unrest, a new Colombia, revitalised by economic regeneration, a national peace process, and the successes of its cyclists, has achieved normalisation in the eyes of the international community.
So rapid has this national transformation been that it has taken place within the lifetimes of these remarkable young sportsmen. Colombia Es Pasion: how a generation of racing cyclists changed their nation and the Tour de France explores the lives and dreams of each of Colombia's leading cyclists. Theirs are inspiring stories of overcoming poverty and violence, sickness and corruption - of the emergence of the indigenous, to global sporting glory. It portrays the unique sporting microcosm that lies behind Colombia's world-beating riders, and how their sporting achievements have spurred a nation to peace, reform and prosperity.
MATT RENDELL survived Hodgkin's Disease and lecturing at British and Latvian universities before entering TV and print journalism. His first book Kings of the Mountains: How Colombia's Cycling Heroes Changed their Nation's History (Aurum Press 2002) was described in The Times as 'meticulous, elegant and sensitive.' His Channel 4 documentary about sport in Colombia and Ecuador, also called Kings of the Mountains, was described in The Observer as 'a gem, telling us more about the essence of sport in under an hour than a season's worth of Premiership matches.'
He has written for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, including British coverage of the Tour de France, and he edited The Tour de France Centennial 1903-2003 (Weidenfeld and Nicolson 2003). The National Sporting Club named Matt Rendell 'Best New Sports Writer 2003'.