A mere eight seconds separated the overall times for the first and second place finishers at the first ever Colombia Oro y Paz cycling event.
Colombia’s own Egan Bernal, representing Team Sky, took gold in the six-day race that began in Palmira in the Cauca Valley and ended Sunday in Manizales. Bernal’s first-place time in the mountain legs was capped off by an incredible comeback in the last-stage climb on the 20-kilometer route to Manzinales where he stole the overall lead from eventual second-place finisher Nairo Quintana of Movistar Team.
Team Sky also won the group gold, finishing half a minute ahead of EF Education First-Drapac.
“It was a great day, the team did a great job,” the 21-year-old Bernal told CyclingNews after Sunday’s winning leg. “We had the opportunity to try something and in truth, I had very good legs from the bottom of the climb and I felt good. We had the opportunity, with support from (teammates) Tao (Geoghegan Hart) and Sebas (Henao), so it all worked out perfectly.”
The Colombians had a clear advantage in their home country, as only two foreign riders placed within the top 10 overall.
The Colombia Oro y Paz is part of the 2018 UCI America Tour that will last until late September. The next race in the series is the Tour of Uruguay that starts on March 23.
Third-place finisher Rigoberto Urán told CyclingNews that the inaugural edition of this event that drew huge crowds was a symbolic unifier for the country that is trying to put to rest a five-decade civil war.
“This is what we all wanted, to see this amount of people, all united through sport and, in this case, through cycling,” he said to CyclingNews. “I think what’s happened here at this race is a clear sign of what cycling can do. It has been a convincing advertisement for the country, it has united a lot of regions here and, really, that’s what cycling brings us; it brings us happiness, joy, peace, and unity.”