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Fabio Duarte, the 2008 U23 world champion, will finally make his European debut next year with a move to Geox-TMC.
Still just 23, Duarte resisted a move to Europe following his world title in Varese and continued on his development in his native Colombia during the 2009-10 seasons while racing for the “Colombia es Pasión” team.
“My time at Colombia es Pasión has helped me to mature, to learn a lot, and to gain the confidence to race in Europe,” Duarte said in an interview with the Colombian daily El Mundo. “All these years will help me confront the challenges that I will face next year.”
At Colombia es Pasión, he rode as the team leader. At Geox-TMC, he’ll ride in support of team captains Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre, but will likely get his chances as well. Geox-TMC manager Mauro Gianetti signed him to a two-year deal.
“They have a lot of confidence in me and they appreciate me a lot,” Duarte said of his new bosses. “They pay a lot of attention to me and almost every day they mail me e-mails, asking me how I am, what I am doing.”
Duarte is among a new generation of Colombian riders moving into the European peloton. In fact, he will live with some of his compatriots in a growing Colombian cycling community in Santander in northern Spain. Among his neighbors will be new teammate Mauricio Ardila, Rigoberto Urán (Team Sky) and Mauricio Soler (Caisse d’Epargne).
“Ardila has been really helpful,” Duarte continued. “He’s told me that the European races are very tough, but he’s told me to be calm and take it slowly. I have ambitions, but first I want to get a taste against the top pros.”
Duarte is a compact rider who can climb just as well as any of his fellow Colombians and he boasts a strong finishing kick. He’s also a solid time trialist who can defend gains taken in the mountains, though it’s still too early to say what kind of rider he might be able to become.
In 2010, he raced both in South America and Europe, with strong showings in Spain, with victory in the U23 Circuito de Montañés (won by Tejay Van Garderen in 2009) and second overall at the five-day Vuelta a Asturias in May.
Duarte will make his season debut in Geox-TMC colors at the Tour de San Luís in Argentina in January, with the season’s main goal of making his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia.