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Team Colombia imports home favorite Cano to the European peloton

Colombia's general manager says Alex Cano "is the most famous cyclist racing in Colombia right now"

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MILAN (VN) — Team Colombia is importing one of its country’s top cyclists, Alex Cano, this winter to compete with the big boys in Europe’s stage races.

“We’ve made a few changes for 2015, but the big one is Alex Cano,” Colombia’s general manager Claudio Corti told VeloNews. “He is the most famous cyclist racing in Colombia right now. I say ‘in Colombia’ because of course, in Europe, Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Urán, and others are already doing quite well.”

The Italian Corti has managed the team since its beginning in 2012 and has introduced several young Colombians to European cycling, including Esteban Chaves and Darwin Atapuma — who have gone on to Orica-GreenEdge and BMC Racing, respectively. For 2015, one of his new signings includes 21-year-old Brayan Ramirez.

Cano, however, turned 31 on March 13. He already raced in Europe as an amateur and won one of the biggest amateur stage races in 2007, the Giro della Valle d’Aosta.

“We normally aim for young riders, and we are still doing that, trying to take them to a new level internationally,” Corti added.

“He’s already raced in Italy, won the Valle d’Aosta and had some other good results. Last year, he was second overall in Vuelta a Colombia and this year, he placed second in the Clásico RCN and won the Vuelta a Guatemala overall in October. He’s the strongest in Colombia, out of those who live and race in Colombia.”

At 5-foot-6 and around 130 pounds, the diminutive Quintana (Movistar) currently rules Colombian cycling. In 2014, he became the first rider from his country to win the Giro d’Italia. In 2013, he placed second behind Chris Froome (Sky) at the Tour de France while winning a stage and both the mountains and best young rider classifications.

Several riders stand behind Quintana, including Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing), and Esteban Chaves (Orica). Cano, a strong climber and time trialer, could quickly climb up the ranks to join those names with Corti’s support in Europe.

“We need to try with him. I’m not going to say that he’s the Colombian of the future and that he can take Quintana’s place, that’s for you to say or decide,” Corti said.

“We are going to give him a good amount of racing and a good calendar. Clearly though, I believe that we are going to be able to win with him!”

Team Colombia competed in several top stage races this year, including the Critérium International, the Giro del Trentino, and the Giro d’Italia. Corti hopes to return to the Giro d’Italia and to race the Tour de France for the first time in 2015. As a second-division team though, Colombia must ask for wildcard invitations to the top events.

Giro d’Italia organizer RCS Sport is due to announce its four wildcard teams in January. Those teams will race alongside the 18 UCI WorldTour, first-division teams in its three-week race. The Tour de France will do the same, possibly in January.

It would be a big jump for Cano, but if Colombia races the Giro, or the Tour, he could have his chance to race alongside cyclists already in Corti’s stable like Fabio Duarte and Miguel Rubiano Chávez.