Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo will lead Team Colombia in the Giro d’Italia. The 27 year old carries the team’s general classification hopes on his shoulders and offers their strongest stage win threat in the high mountains. The team have selected a mixture of climbers and fast finishers, as they seek stage wins and approach the race with a mandate to attack as often as possible. Sprinters Edwin Avila, Jeffrey Romero and the veteran Leonardo Duque will try their luck on the flat stages, though their best opportunities would likely come from a break. Jarlinson Pantano and Miguel Angel Rubiano will look to be active in the mountains; Pantano finished 3rd after a break in the 2013 race, while Rubiano won from a break on a hilly stage in 2012. However the most talented rider in their line up is Duarte and he represents the team’s best chance of success.
Fabio Duarte’s name first rang out in the cycling world when he became the 2008 Under-23 World Champion in Varese, Italy. Duarte sealed that victory after he got the jump on faster finishers Simone Ponzi, John Degenkolb and Ben Swift. However despite that terrific early success Duarte was forced to wait for his chance to test himself in the upper echelons of the sport. Over the next two seasons he produced some impressive results in relatively minor races, three stage wins in the Vuelta a Colombia, a stage win in the Vuelta Asturias, a stage win and overall victory in the Circuito Montañés, which was won by Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) the year before.
In 2011 Duarte finally had a chance to test himself in some bigger races after signing with Geox-TMC, a Spanish Pro Continental team. He proved he was up to the challenge throughout the season, finishing 2nd in the G.P. di Lugano, a hilly Swiss race, 4th overall in the Vuelta a Murcia, winning a stage in the Giro del Trentino and making his debut in both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, finishing 2nd on a hilly stage in the Giro. Geox-TMC dissolved after the season and Duarte signed with his current team, then racing as the Colombia-Coldeportes team. In 2012 Duarte won the Coppa Sabatini, finished 4th in De Brabantse Pijl and 5th overall in the Tour of California, after finishing 3rd on the key mountain finish, ahead of a host of strong riders. Last season was more of a struggle as Duarte failed to perform to expectations. The bright spot was his return to the Giro d’Italia, where even though he could only finished 28th overall, Duarte found great form in the final week of the race, finishing 5th on the Col du Galibier, and 2nd on the final summit finish of the race at Tre Cime de Lavaredo, the snow seemed to bring out his best form.
Team Colombia’s Giro preparations have been disrupted by issues obtaining passports for the opening stages of the race in Northern Ireland; a mix up over which type of visa to apply for resulted in some riders being rejected initially. While it all seems to have been sorted out eventually, the team was forced to withdraw from the Tour of Turkey as the British Embassy still had possession of the passports of a number of the riders. As a result several of the team may be underprepared when the race starts.
Thankfully for Duarte he should be unaffected by that and appears to have planned his season much better this year. Duarte’s 4th overall finish at the Giro del Trentino demonstrated that he is finding form ahead of the Giro d’Italia; he was 61st overall in the same race last season. Duarte is an excellent climber, and at 5’5” and 55kg he has the right build to excel on the tougher climbs. He has produced some decent performances as a time trialist, and while it wouldn’t be considered one of his strengths, it’s not a great weakness either. If he can hold his form from Trentino throughout the Giro d’Italia, then Duarte could very well challenge for a top 10 overall finish. If not, then he should find he has some freedom to attack in the mountainous final week, where his natural skill set gives him a great chance to claim the stage win that team manager Claudio Corti craves.