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Jonathan Caicedo’s pathway from rural Ecuador to the lead at Tour Colombia

EF Pro Cycling's Jonathan Caicedo leads the Tour Colombia 2.1 after the squad's impressive performance in the team time trial. Caicedo has charted a path from rural Ecuador to the WorldTour.

TUNJA, Colombia (VN) — Jonathan Caicedo on Tuesday afternoon became the first leader of the 2020 Tour Colombia 2.1, leading EF Pro Cycling through the 16.7-kilometer team time trial ahead of WorldTour rivals Team Ineos and Deceuninck—Quick-Step. Caicedo donned the yellow jersey knowing that, should he falter in the coming days, his strong teammates Sergio Higuita, Daniel Martinez, and Rigoberto Uran will be there to challenge for the lead.

“We felt like we did a good time; in the end we knew we had to leave everything in the time trial,” Caicedo said, speaking to the press following the stage. “I gave it my all and was first to cross the line. The gap is good for us, not just for me but also for Higuita and Martinez. If we are able to secure the gap until the finale, I want to defend in every way I can.”

The result thrust Caicedo onto the international stage for the first time in his short career.

Caicedo was born and raised in the high mountains of Santa Martha de Cuba, in Carchi, Ecuador, not far from the hometown of Richard Carapaz, where the base altitude is close to 9,500 ft. Caidedo is part of the current crop of Ecuadorian riders making history on the WorldTour, alongside Carapaz and Jhonatan Narvaez, who are also competing at the Tour Colombia 2.1.

Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Movistar at the 2019 Giro d’Italia. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The current growth of cycling in Ecuador is tied to Carapaz and his recent success in Europe, most notably his Giro d’Italia victory in May.

“Cycling in Ecuador is growing,” Caicedo said. “We’re opening the doors for many young riders and want to be a good example for all the young cyclists that are coming up. I give the very best so that it continues to grow.”

Caicedo is the current national road champion of Ecuador, donning the red, blue, and yellow kit of his national colors. His professional career trajectory to the WorldTour began in Colombia, where he raced with both the Bicicleta’s Strongman and Team Medellín squads, two of Colombia’s top domestic teams at the time.

“Coldeportes Strongman gave me the opportunity to race here in Colombia where I gained great palmeres, and Team Medellin also,” Caicedo said. “Both of them helped open doors for me to be where I am, with a great team like EF Education First.”

Team Strongman at the 2016 Tour de San Luis. Photo: Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images

Caicido actually raced alongside Carapaz during his time with Bicicletas Strongman. The two were a powerhouse duo, swapping leading rolls in races like the Vuelta a Guatemala and the Vuelta Colombia before Carapaz was recruited by Team Movistar in 2016. In 2018, Caicedo signed with Team Medellín to continue his development in a leadership role alongside Oscar Sevilla.

After working for Sevilla to gain the win at the Vuelta Colombia in 2015, Caicedo returned with Team Medellin to race for GC himself. He finished fourth place overall in 2017, and the result led to other racing opportunities in Spain.

Caicedo signed with EF Pro Cycling for 2019 after a successful season with Team Medellin in 2018. His debut in the WorldTour was rocky—he raced the Giro d’Italia after suffering from illness earlier in the season and finished hours down on GC.

“Last year was very difficult for me, I had several down times and didn’t race a lot in Europe,” Caicedo said. “The important thing was to continue to work hard. Now I am good mentally, with great dreams. I believe that I have a lot more to give and explore. So I am here with great dreams and above all, to give everything I have.”

But he followed up the disappointment with success, winning Ecuador’s national title in the road race and individual time trial.

Julian Velasquez, the director sportif at Team Medellin, believes the world has yet to see Caicedo’s full potential.

Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

“Caicedo is a rider who I believe learned a lot about what is discipline, what it is to be professional,” Velasquez said. “When he signed with EF, we were very happy and proud. He’s a great person, with the innocence of a child. He still has a lot to learn but I believe he’s the best cyclist in Ecuador. It’s something that gives us great pride that he’s now leading Tour of Colombia. He always has a home with Team Medellin.”

For now, Caicedo will enjoy the happiness of the moment, reflecting the support and love he receives from the many fans lining the roads.

“I shouldn’t believe it, but I can dream now that I can make it to the end with this jersey,” he said. “I’m 100% motivated, to battle with these great teams. I will defend the jersey as much as I can in the coming stages”