A very familiar face joined the ranks of this year’s Amgen Tour of California. He raced four years with the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, Team Phonak for two years, Rock Racing for two years and wore the yellow jersey at the 2003 Tour de France for three days. Victor Hugo Peña returns to the Amgen Tour of California as a member of an all Colombian racing team, Colombia-Coldeportes.
“It has always been a dream of mine to race in Europe on a Colombian team,” stated Peña. “When I started racing as a professional, there were no Colombian teams. I had to find my professional life in Europe. Now at the end of my career, I can finally be on a Colombian team. I feel very happy.”
Peña’s road to Colombia-Coldeportes had a few deviations. He raced one year with Unibet and then signed on with Michael Ball’s Rock Racing team.
“At the time I joined Rock Racing, I believed in the Rock Racing program,” commented Peña. “At the beginning it was okay. I was feeling really good about the team. The team was going to give cycling a new way of looking at the sport. Michael Ball wanted to bring excitement and fun to cycling. He wanted to give another image to cycling. He wanted to portray cyclists as heroes, but things end. The team officially ended in February 2011 and it was very difficult for me to sign with a team that late. Teams were already established. I was told that since I was not a young rider that I would be signed for a small contract. This was not ideal for me. I decided to sign with a Colombian team (Colombia es Pasion-Café de Colombia) shortly after. It was a good Colombian project. Unfortunately the team lost it’s major sponsor. That team morphed into the current Columbia Coldeportes team. The Colombian sports minister pledged money into our team. The team wanted Claudio Corte to take care of the team in the Italy. He was familiar with Colombian cycling and Europe. The problem is the team is being sponsored with government money. With government money there is no security. Politics can change and the government chooses to support another sport. We shall see. We need to win races and have good results.”
The team has very talented climbers. Darwin Atapuma won the 4th stage of the Giro del Trentino this year. Fabio Andres Duarte placed 4th at Flèche Barbanconne. Juan Pablo Suarez placed 14th in last year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“We have two very good climbers that we need to take care of…Atapuma and Duarte. We have to keep them up front. Duarte is not a strong time trial rider. He will lose time at the time trial but in the big mountain climbs he will be up front with the climbers.”
Peña has become the elder statesman of Colombian cycling. He still has much to contribute to a racing peloton and experience to share with his team.
“I can share all of my European racing experiences with the next generation of Colombian riders. I can share what happened. The riders on our team are very talented. I enjoy telling them my racing stories. They ask about specific climbs and races and I can share details of what happened.” Pena
Racing for Colombia-Coldeportes with Peña in the Amgen Tour of California are: Darwin Atapuma, Fabio Andres Duarte, Javier Gonzalez Barrera, Carlos Julian Quintero, Michael Rodriguez, Wilson Marentes Torres, and Juan Pablo Suarez.