Indeed, Luis Herrera was nicknamed el jardinero, ‘the little gardener’, as he farmed flowers, while Nairo Quintana grew up on his parents’ smallholding situated at 3,000m – higher than any French col. Cycling, I think, comes first because many people, especially in the countryside, are poor, and the bike is a tool for transport. So, everyone has a bike there. But that leads to people using them for pleasure, for freedom and sport, not just for transport.
When the Vuelta a Colombia came along [in 1951], it became one of the ways people learned more about Colombia – what the landscape was like, what the people were like in different parts of the country – because during the races the radio commentators were describing what they were seeing. For all these reasons, cycling is very much in the blood of the Colombian people. It was kept like a secret from the rest of the world until the 1980s and 90s, overshadowed by stories of drug trafficking, and people were terrified to visit. But now they are going and discovering the incredible landscapes and wonderful places, and seeing it is cycling paradise.