Cycling enthusiasts have probably noticed we have a new sports hero in Ecuador since last week: Richard Carapaz! After three weeks of hard work, suffering and attacking, he surprised everyone by winning the Giro d’Italia.
As we don’t normally get too many champions in this country, the Ecuadorians were totally over the moon, and everyone joined in with the celebrations. President Moreno had even ordered that everyone should be able to watch the last stage live (not just those with Pay TV), so they rapidly put up giant screens all over the country.
It really is the success story of a poor farmer’s son who made it to the absolute top in the cycling world. The big welcome in Quito took place earlier today. What a celebration it was! The entire city turned pink. The only person ever to receive a bigger welcome than this is the Pope, I think. And that in a country where not too long ago, nobody knew anything about cycling.
Ecuador doesn’t have a cycling culture. There are no cycling paths. And there’s no respect for cyclists. The bicycle isn’t considered a serious means of transport. Which is somewhat understandable. A cycling tour through the mountain landscape of the Andes is a bit of a challenge, after all.
However, the city of Quito is trying to stimulate the use of the bicycle, by developing a ‘ciclopaseo’ for example. This 30-km long, car-free cycling route crosses the city from north to south and opens every Sunday. They also introduced city bikes, a system that allows registered people to use a bicycle for free for up to one hour at a time.
But in general, it’s still rare to see people commute by bike. Out of all our staff, there’s only one person who cycles to the office. As for the nursery workers, it’s pretty much the same. If they do use a two-wheeler, it’s typically a moped instead of a bicycle. But most employees (95%) are picked up and dropped off by the company bus. Just like at the flower farms in Colombia.
Back to Carapaz. I am convinced his success is going to make cycling more popular among young people. As an extra incentive, the Ecuadorian President abolished the 30% import fee on racing bicycles the day after the victory. May it be the beginning of many more years of great cycling sports!
Victor van Dijk,
Area-manager South-America, FleuraMetz