One of the more enjoyable aspects of this year's Giro d'Italia has been watching the effect of having 14 Colombians in the race, as Stage 15 clearly demonstrated.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Wild card selections are a difficult thing for most Grand Tour organisers, there is always tension between satisfying the one-eyed ambitions of fans, local teams and development, and making sure that the teams selected will justify their place.

And with the last week of the Giro almost upon us, it's safe to say that the selections have been a roaring success. Italian ambitions have been more than satisfied with Bardiani-CSF winning two stages and present in the breaks.

Add another two stage wins by World Tour regular Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) and the rise of Astana's Fabio Aru as a threat to the general classification after his breakthrough victory on Stage 15, and the tifosi and organisers have to be more than happy.

But for me having the Giro numbers boosted with the inclusion of Team Colombia has brought another level of entertainment and excitement to the race.

Colombian riders are a hot commodity now if you run a World Tour team, with even Orica-GreenEDGE succumbing with the moneyball aquisition of Esteban Chaves, who won the Mountain High stage of the Amgen Tour of California two weeks ago.

Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) are household names and their performances have clearly pulled at the other Colombian riders, including Fabio Duarte, who was at the pointy end of the climb on Plan di Montecampione after another Colombian, Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing). helped crack the race open along with Team Sky's Phil Deignan.

Uran defended his Maglia Rosa with a crafty ride on Stage 15 which gained time on Australia's Cadel Evans (BMC), while Quintana, who appears to be back to his best after fighting injury and illness for the first two weeks, was a deadly protagonist.

"I'm (also) full of pride because I am representing Colombia every day as the race leader," said Uran after the stage. "Cycling is a sport that grew a lot there in the last years.

"We have a great generation of riders and we have riders able to do well in all the disciplines. It means a lot for our country. All of the people watch us on the television. It's great and I love that I can represent an entire nation."

The Colombians seem to be everywhere all at once now that the race has hit the hills. The final week of racing will be very interesting and it is increasingly hard to bet against the man currently wearing the Maglia Rosa.

They always appear to be relaxed off the bike, but when on it they are effortlessly aggressive and intense. They back themselves with panache when so many seem to hesitate, and the effect on the peloton is always explosive.

Easy of course when you have climbing in your DNA as they do, but the Giro peloton demonstrates that professional cycling is richer for having this generation of Colombian in it.

After some initial reservations, performances leading up to this year's Giro d'Italia means they have well and truly cemented their place in the peloton.

"There were some reservations in the peloton, for a while they looked at us differently," Nairo Quintana said on the Subaru World of Cycling show.

"When we started winning, things started to change. They could see that we were good at what we did, we had mastered the bike. And we weren't clumsy like they thought before, and they started to respect us a whole lot more."

Not only the respect of the peloton, but also the fans like me, who have responded in kind to their generous and exciting riding.

Australian eyes are always on the efforts of Evans and I would like nothing better than to see him win a second Grand Tour, but if he is to lose, then I'm happy to see a Colombian in pink in Trieste.




SBS broadcasts every stage of the 2014 Giro d'Italia LIVE! There will be nightly highlights at 5:30pm on SBS ONE, and each stage will also be streamed live here at Cycling Central.