Kings of the Mountains:
Aurum Press 2002. 246 pp paperback,
A Preview by Podofdonny & Alex La Rouge
Why not visit the daily peloton shop?
There can be few better writers than Rendell qualified to weave this tight knit tapestry of cycling, religion, geography, politics and crime that are the main themes of his masterly study of cycling history in Colombia.
The author, who has even commentated on cycling on Colombian radio, attempts to demonstrate how cycling is not only the national sport of Colombia but how its progress has interacted with the life of the nation over 50 turbulent years and how its successes and failures are mirrored in the national psyche. Such is the epic scale of both the races and the personalities involved in the book this is still a very accessible and enjoyable read.
Rendell’s starting point is the first Vuelta de Colombia of 1951. His tales of Colombian legends such as “The Indomitable Zipa,” Hoyos, “Cochise” and Nino fighting not only the geographic and climatic extremes of the nation but also poverty, poor equipment and political uncertainties are as thrilling as the dangerous descents the riders faced themselves.
While looking meticulously at the domestic scene in Colombia, Rendell also looks at the nations attempts to emerge onto the international scene. Fascinatingly he looks at the contributions of riders such as Coppi, Koblet and Gimondi all of whom raced in Colombia but whose exploits have been ill recorded in European accounts of their lives.
The book, always following the political and social situation in Colombia as a backdrop to the events, follows the gradual emergence of the nation onto the largest races in the World which saw the “Great Adventure” of 1983 when finally a Colombian team rode in the Tour de France with distinction. However by then the crime and violence associated with the drugs trade was epidemic and it was little wonder that many of Colombia’s finest cyclists got caught in the cross fire of smuggling, kidnapping, torture and murder that characterised Colombia in the 80s and 90s.
Fortunately the story ends with the glimpse of a new future with the likes of Botero, Pena and Chepe Gonzalez - indeed it is a shame that the book is not revised to include more details on Botero’s World Time trial record and Pena’s spell in yellow in the 2003 Tour de France. Other useful additions would be an index and a results listing.
Ultimately, however, the book is a rare combination of the history of a nation and its cycling heroes which every lover of the sport will enjoy.
Victor Hugo Pena the first Colombian to wear yellow. Tour De France 2003. Courtesy US Postal presented by Berry Floor.