Higuita's story: from a scrap yard in Medellín to win at La Vuelta
The story begins like almost everyone, with a child who insists on having a bicycle. A good day, seeing Sergio's early passion for cycling, his parents Leonardo and Marle
- Crónica.Roglic resists in the Sierra de Madrid
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The story begins like almost everyone, with a child who insists on having a bicycle. One day, seeing Sergio's early passion for cycling, his parents Leonardo and Marleny decided to make an important economic effort to give him his first mountain bike. Through the streets of the Castilla neighborhood in Medellín (Colombia), Higuita began pedaling with her 'mountain bike', accompanied by her father, and competing in children's races, the first of them at age five.
The problem was that the bike soon became too small, so he immediately needed another. But Sergio did not want another 'mountain bike', but a road bike like those carried by those idols he saw on television, much more expensive than a mountain one, of course. And this is where the story changes. Because what Higuita did was kick the junkyards in Medellín until one of them found a dilapidated road bike that gladly changed for his mountain. Thus began the story of the 22-year-old Colombian who on Thursday won his first stage in La Vuelta a España.
His father had to fix that old iron so he could continue to feed his passion for cycling. A hobby always conditioned to his good work in the school, a requirement that Higuita fully completed, taking out high school with good grades before devoting his life to cycling. So outstanding was the pedals that went directly from youth to professional, to the Postobón Apple, the great quarry of Colombian cycling that lowered the blind a few months ago because of the damn doping.
"I wanted to go little by little"
The jump, so extreme, was complicated for a boy as young as him. For three seasons, from 2016 to 2018, he was growing on sticks and learning to compete against runners who even doubled in age. It was a matter of time before some great team noticed such a promising climber. He did the Education First, which trusted him and offered him a three-year contract with the promise to make him grow little by little, to allow him a progressive adaptation to the demands of the highest level.
In that context, last winter the manager of Higuita grabbed the phone and called the heads of the Euskadi Foundation, the Continental team chaired by Mikel Landa. "I had already done it with Education First, but they offered us their assignment for a few months because the kid wanted to go little by little. I knew him very well, because I follow a lot of sub'23 and amateur cycling, I had him very controlled and I knew that it could be a good runner for us. But I couldn't imagine the performance it was going to give us, "recalls Jorge Azanza, sports director of the Basque team.
Already in the first concentration, their performance data astonished those responsible for the Euskadi Foundation. "I immediately told our manager that we had in our hands a diamond in the rough and that we could even win a stage," says Azanza, who speaks of Higuita with sports admiration, but also personal: "It's a phenomenon, it has a education and exquisite values. It was a short time, but he won the love of all of us. We keep talking from time to time, in fact. And I always tell him to believe it, that he will get high if he perseveres. "
"Profile similar to Valverde"
The Euskadi Foundation, a humble squad, had been refloated in 2018, the year in which it won no victory. For the story it will be that the first of all was achieved by Higuita. In the Tour of Valencia, copper was beaten with Valverde, Yates, Izagirre or Dan Martin, becoming sixth in two stages. 10 days later he repeated in the most demanding Tour of Andalusia, managing to be second in a stage just behind Simon Yates and beating the sprint to Kruijswijk, Izagirre, Bilbao, Fuglsang ...
Finally, in the Vuelta al Alentejo he hit the target, achieving his second professional victory after the one achieved in 2018 in the Vuelta a Colombia. It was in a reduced sprint, because what differentiates Higuita from the bulk of Colombian climbers is its devilish speed tip. "It is never very good to make comparisons, but it has a profile similar to that of Valverde. It goes very well in the mountains, at the level of the best, and that adds an important speed that will win many races. It has an innate power and a mentality winner as few, "says Azanza on the fast 'beetle'.
After his successful four-month assignment at the Euskadi Foundation, Education First called him up on May 1. 11 days later, he debuted in his first World Tour event, the Tour of California. And that was when he left everyone speechless, as he finished it in second position, behind Pogacar, another early phenomenon. In the other race he played with the pink jersey before this Tour of Spain, in Poland (another World Tour), he was fourth overall with 22 years old.
His meteoric progression has culminated in Thursday's victory at Becerril de la Sierra, after resisting the persecution led by his compatriot Miguel Ángel López for 30 kilometers. "It's the biggest day of my sports career. It's an incredible moment. I don't know yet the magnitude of what I've done, but it's sensational," said Higuita, who with her triumph has ended the curse in this Tour of Education First , which has been losing due to falls to Uran, Carthy and Van Garderen. The Colombian himself went to the ground another three times, but he persevered until he got the reward for a dream that began in a scrap yard in Medellín. "And more will come because he has an innate talent. He will be one of the greatest in the world squad," says Azanza.
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- Ion Izagirre
- Simon Yates
- Mikel Landa
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