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    Georgia Randonnée

    Super Sergio

    Colombian cycling is the strongest it’s ever been. Noughties trailblazers Rigoberto Urán and Nairo Quintana are still kicking it at the top of the sport, recently joined by a new generation of wonderkids like Egan Bernal – last year’s Tour of California winner – and his team mate Ivan Sosa. But has EF Education First Pro Cycling unearthed a talent to top them all? Ahead of his debut for the team in pink at Cali, Rapha spoke to 21-year-old Sergio Higuita.

    15 May 2019

    Hola Sergio. How did you get into the sport?

    I started riding because of a teacher at my school. She signed me up to take part in a race when I was five years old. It was on every year, and I did it until I was 13 or 14. I used to wait anxiously for the date, and the day before I couldn’t think of anything but the excitement of racing. I never won it, but I came close a few times.

     

    Were you a fan of pro racing too?

    Yes, I started watching the Tour de France and the Giro on TV from the age of about 10. This was the time when Alberto Contador was really strong, so I enjoyed watching his aggressive style – attacking ten times in a stage! From a young age I would ride the same way as him. I used to train with my friends and attack them again and again until I blew up. I liked Purito [Rodriguez] and [Alejandro] Valverde too, but Contador was the one for me. I remember seeing his ‘pistolero’ celebration for the first time... Ufff.

    Have you carried on that style of riding into your career as a pro?

    For sure, I’m a very combative racer. I love being in the battle and giving my all. And I like the suffering, which is what cycling is all about. I’m a climber who likes to change the rhythm a lot, and I have a good sprint too, despite being very small. If there’s a select group I usually have a chance of winning.

     

    You started racing in Europe at just 18 with the Manzana Postobón team. How were those first experiences for you?

    It was great but also very difficult. Before racing in Europe I’d only competed at one proper race in Colombia, and I’d found that tough. My first race in Europe was the Tour of Asturias and on Stage One I had terrible cramps and was one of the last to cross the line [Sergio came 92nd, 23 minutes behind stage winner and new EF team mate Hugh Carthy]. I was a new cyclist, in a new country, and it was difficult. But I was hungry. I said to myself: ‘tomorrow, you’re going to go out and fight for what you’ve always wanted’. And so I fought to get into the break that day, and I did it. It was funny because I didn’t realise how you should ride in the break and I started attacking from the bottom of the climbs, changing the rhythm, breaking it all up. Raul Alarcón, a veteran Portuguese rider, was with us and went mad at me because I was attacking like a crazy thing. We’re friends now and can laugh about it!

    How did you sign for EF Education First?

    At last year’s Tour de Colombia I won a stage, the U23 classification, and came fifth overall. Quite a few teams were interested in me, but EF Education First were the ones chasing me the most. After I signed, they told me that they wanted me to ride for the Basque Continental level team Euskadi for the first half of this year so I could get a bit more of a base racing in Europe. All I want to do is learn, so it was a great opportunity for me [Sergio raced 23 days for Euskadi, achieving twelve top ten results and one victory].

     

    How does it feel to be training, and now racing, in the jersey of a WorldTour team?

    It’s a dream. I don’t really have the words to explain my happiness. But now I have to keep going – it was hard to get here, and it’ll be even harder to stay here! I’m so excited to debut at the Tour of California. I look forward to working for guys like Rigo and Tejay. I looked up to them when I was younger, so to be able to ride alongside them is a big motivation for me to give my best.

    At which races would you like to do well in the future?

    I’d love to win the Giro d’Italia. It’s a beautiful race. It’s very hard and the fact that Colombians like Esteban Chaves, Nairo Quintana and Rigo Uran have done well there motivates me a lot. The Tour de France is a race I’d love to do well at too, but it doesn’t suit my characteristics as much – there’s usually a long time trial, which is something I hope to improve at.

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