Colombian cyclists refused UK visas for Giro d'Italia Big Start in Northern Ireland

Writer and broadcaster Matt Rendell urges British fans to email embassy in Bogota

by Simon_MacMichael   April 22, 2014  

Giro 2012 S6 Rubiano wins (pic Fabio Ferrari - LaPresse - RCS Sport)

Cycling writer and broadcaster Matt Rendell is urging fans in the UK to contact the British Embassy in Colombia and ask it that visas be granted to five riders – including last year’s runner-up, Rigoberto Uran – to allow them to take part in the Giro d’Italia, which starts in Belfast on Friday 9 May.

Uran’s visa is said to be “pending,” according to the Twitter feed of Colombian cycling blog, La Cadenilla (The Chain), but the situation is more serious for the other four riders concerned – they have each had their applications declined.

For three of those riders, Carlos Quintero, Jarlinson Pantano, and national champion and 2012 Giro stage winner Miguel Rubiano, all of Team Colombia, the reason for the rejection of their visas seems more of a technicality than anything else, at least initially.

After they went to the consulate, housed in the same building as the embassy, on Wednesday 16 April, Pantano told the news website Las 2 Orillas that he believed he and his two team mates had been declined visas “because we asked for transit [visas] and we should have asked for tourist [ones].”

He and Quintero are currently racing the Giro del Trentino, which began today in Italy, the country where they are both based, and he added that they would try and secure a visa once in Europe. Rubiano, meanwhile, is said to be resubmitting his application in Bogota tomorrow.

David Marín of La Cadenilla expressed his surprise about the visas being refused, telling Las 2 Orillas: "Last week I was going through the same procedure to request a visa at the British Embassy with with Rigoberto Uran and Julian Arredondo, who are also riding the Giro, and there were no problems."

Or at least, there weren’t three days ago when Marín made that comment. Yesterday, as he left Colombia to head to Belgium for tomorrow’s Flèche Wallonne, it emerged that Trek Factory Racing rider Arredondo had not been granted a visa to enter the UK either.

According to La Cadenilla, the reason given was that he doesn’t speak English, and it added that the paperwork from Giro organisers RCS Sport had not satisfied requirements.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider Uran – winner of a silver medal on British soil at London 2012 – who submitted his application at the same time as Arredondo, is still waiting for his visa to be approved. His next race is the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland, which starts on 29 April.

Through Twitter, La Cadenilla is urging Colombia’s foreign and sports ministries – the latter beinng Coldeportes, sponsor of the team of three of the riders involved – to take action, as well as asking the national Olympic committee and cycling federation to help.

The cause has been taken up on the social network by Rendell, whose wife is Colombian. His 2003 book Kings of The Mountains focused on previous generations of riders from a country whose passion for cycling has been fuelled more recently by the exploits of riders such as Uran and 2013 Tour de France runner-up, Nairo Quintana.

The latter, who took part in last year’s Tour of Britain, rides the Giro with Movistar and is not reported to have had any visa issues.

Rendell suggests that fans in the UK email the British Embassy in Bogota, and even tweeted a series of messages that together form a standard letter, as follows:

Dear Sir,

May I request, on behalf of the British sporting public, that you allow Colombia's international racing cyclists to obtain visas in order to be able to compete in the Giro d'Italia, which starts in Belfast on 9 May. Their difficulties are an embarrassment to a nation so open to the world, and so passionate about sport, as ours.

With kind regards, etc.

He added: “Or variations on the theme!”

With three of the five riders now in Europe, there may be little that can be done in their case, but Rubiano and Uran remain in their home country for now.

The email address of the British Embassy is embajadabritanica.bogota@fco.gov.uk while the address of the consular section, which deals with visa applications, is consular.bogota@fco.gov.uk.

28 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Emailed. Seems ridiculous to deny them entry on a technicality - surely consulate staff should advise and help them accordingly. Their presence in Belfast is of a benefit to the event and by extension, the whole country.

JaseCD

posted by jasecd [160 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 19:34

59 Likes

Emailed, too. Fingers crossed Smile

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [210 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:03

39 Likes

Overwhelm these bumbling paper pushers with emails. They are a discredit to a nation that hosted Olympic Games.

The entropy of the universe increases constantly. Carpe diem.

posted by noether [85 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:11

36 Likes

How can they race on a tourist visa though? Transit visa is defiantly the wrong one.

Get an Irish visa....no border checks Smile

Going to be fun if they get ToB and Ride London invites, which might be happening Wink

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9000 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:18

29 Likes

Uran was a Sky rider last year. Perplexing he can't get in just 6 months later; unless it is possible to ride for a British team without ever coming here *cough*froome*cough*



I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1383 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:19

29 Likes

Emailed. Looks as if the consulate is run by UKIP.

posted by Sub5orange [35 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 20:22

38 Likes

Bloody Columbians flooding our country, stealing our pro cycling jobs.

www.vulpine.cc
@aslongasicycle
@vulpinecc

aslongasicycle's picture

posted by aslongasicycle [325 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 21:16

62 Likes

As an expat and the teacher of a dozen or so international university students, I can say that this is absolutely par for the course for the UKBA, and the situation has gotten progressively worse over the last several years. There is a deep-seated distrust of foreigners, the thresholds for even the simplest forms of visas have become exceptionally challenging, and the language that is used by the UKBA is often threatening and aggressive.

The kinds of things reported in this story are, I'm sad to say, totally normal for my students, who come from the USA, Canada, Chile, Japan, South Korea, Australia, etc. etc. The situation is very, very grim.

posted by amc654 [32 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 21:23

41 Likes

Colombians. Procyclists.

Shall we point out that not all Colombians are part of a drugs cartel, and that not all procyclists are whacked off their tits on drugs BEFORE the customs guys order a new box of elbow length latex gloves? Big Grin

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 21:24

28 Likes

Crackers, but more and more common from a government whose determination not to appear a soft touch has the unintended (though how could it have not been anticipated?) consequences of gigantic pain-in-the-arse queues at UK passport controls, and denied visas for sportspeople and entertainers who are clearly not about nick a British person's job or sign on for benefits or whatever the latest scaremongering bollocks is.

I've a friend from South Africa - a doctor, working for the NHS - who gets taken into a side-room for interrogation every time she re-enters the country. This in spite of having legal right to live and work here, and being married to an Englishman with whom she's had an English son.

It is, as Ryder Hesjedal would say 'coconuts'.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1102 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 21:27

19 Likes

bikeboy76 wrote:
Uran was a Sky rider last year. Perplexing he can't get in just 6 months later; unless it is possible to ride for a British team without ever coming here *cough*froome*cough*

He raced the Olympics road race in 2012. Presumably that was legal? Or was he dragged from the podium and deported? Surprise

Him Up North's picture

posted by Him Up North [235 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 22:31

36 Likes

As a Colombian you need both because being Colombian is fun.

posted by Istarbel [1 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 2:14

26 Likes

Can't blame the uk border authority for rejecting applications for incorrect visas (tourist vs transit) and for rejecting visas based on insufficient detail. Only the riders / teams who are requesting the visas to blame for not doing it correctly.

Hopefully there is enough time to rectify the situation by submitting new forms.

posted by Charles_Hunter [81 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 6:58

26 Likes

Whilst yes, the UKBA need to play by the (increasingly harsh) rules set down by the tabloid-following government (the last one was no better on this) they could have gone "ah, I see you've filled in the wrong form, please fill in this one and we'll get you sorted" when it appears they've simply gone "computer says no".

posted by Al__S [620 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 7:44

20 Likes

Done.
The Giro is just the sort of sporting event that Northern Ireland and Ireland need to continuing rebuilding their reputations as tourist destinations.
Allowing petty bureaucracy to get in the way is an unfortunate but predictable British trait.

Did Nightrider 2013 and 2014 for Parkinson's UK. Might just have one last go in 2015.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [628 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 7:44

15 Likes

Al__S wrote:
Whilst yes, the UKBA need to play by the (increasingly harsh) rules set down by the tabloid-following government (the last one was no better on this) they could have gone "ah, I see you've filled in the wrong form, please fill in this one and we'll get you sorted" when it appears they've simply gone "computer says no".

Bang on. Hit the nail on the head. There again why weren't the riders told which visa to apply for, presuming the teams have some in the background who works out what visa is needed for all the countries raced in.

They have applied for the wrong visa and been correctly refused.

IIRC. A transit visa is as it says to allow you to stay in the UK for say 24hrs as you transit through the country. I.e. fly into Manchester from Europe to make a connecting flight to the USA from Heathrow. It doesn't allow you to work.

A visitors visa is more appropriate but could still be refused as technically they are not visiting the UK, they are working in the UK.

Now a sports visitor visa would be bang on and could be difficult to refuse.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [308 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 8:02

21 Likes

Aren't these people employed by teams who have someone to deal with things like visas?

posted by Nick T [837 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 8:06

21 Likes

Thank god all the track cyclists at the Worlds in Cali this Feb could speak Spanish, otherwise the Colombians would never have let them in.

www.vulpine.cc
@aslongasicycle
@vulpinecc

aslongasicycle's picture

posted by aslongasicycle [325 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 8:24

16 Likes

Quote "......and 2012 Tour de France runner-up, Nairo Quintana."

Oops

Did Nightrider 2013 and 2014 for Parkinson's UK. Might just have one last go in 2015.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [628 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 8:50

10 Likes

Simple answer - IRISH VISA's - they DONT need British ones.

posted by Farky [180 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 8:54

25 Likes

Farky wrote:
Simple answer - IRISH VISA's - they DONT need British ones.

I honestly dont know the answer but will Irish visa's allow them to take part in N Ireland as well ?

The pro teams need a kick up the backside though for not getting it sorted correctly.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2824 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 9:08

8 Likes

Whilst it would be possible to do this due to the border being so open it depends on the teams point of entry. Many of them may have come via France/Belguim/Netherlands and stop of in Yorkshire where Giant Shimano currently is to get a lay of the land before progressing to NI.

Even to travel up through the Republic, the teams may be subjected to a surprise visit at their hotel in Belfast by the UKBA. The whole thing is a complete shambles.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1061 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 18:19

6 Likes

I travel in my job, if I need a work permit, visa, ESTA, or something, our admin sorts it, or arranges what we need for the arrival in that country. No problems so far. These guys are pros, surely it can't be that hard to arrange...they always travel! Or am I being OTT?

Comrade's picture

posted by Comrade [161 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 21:36

6 Likes

I hate to say it, but a real problem is that you need a different visa for the UK and Ireland than for the Schengen countries. If we stopped being so littleenglandish the problem would go away. The other problem appears to be the combined incompetence of the teams and of the UK embassy.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [182 posts]
24th April 2014 - 11:01

5 Likes

noether wrote:
Overwhelm these bumbling paper pushers with emails. They are a discredit to a nation that hosted Olympic Games.

Hang on a moment. You don't seriously suggest that civil servants should take it on themselves to ignore rules and procedures for visa applications do you? Seriously, They should just throw the regs out cos they are cyclists?

The real question is why wait until now to start buggering about with visas and get all hot under the collar about the process not being quick enough. I work in an industry where we need various travel visas quite a lot. If we don't get there we don't get the work. ipso facto we get ourselves organised and make sure we have the visas in place good and early so if there is any shenanigans we have plenty of time to get it sorted out.

In the army it's called "hurry then wait" it's a standing joke but it has a role in making sure you are nice and organised and calmly waiting before all the shit hits the fan.

I blame them/their team manager for not getting it sorted earlier.

And I don't care if it's the Queen of Sheba applying for a visa, I want the proper process followed without fear or favour and decided on the basis of clear and transparent rules, not by some civil servant taking it on themselves to decide matters on a whim granting visas easily to some people and not to others based on criteria only known to them.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [703 posts]
25th April 2014 - 13:51

1 Like

Edgeley wrote:
I hate to say it, but a real problem is that you need a different visa for the UK and Ireland than for the Schengen countries. If we stopped being so littleenglandish the problem would go away. The other problem appears to be the combined incompetence of the teams and of the UK embassy.

We are not in Schengen for a very good reason. There's nothing little Englandish about it. It's just common sense.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [703 posts]
25th April 2014 - 13:59

3 Likes

Ghedebrav wrote:
I've a friend from South Africa - a doctor, working for the NHS - who gets taken into a side-room for interrogation every time she re-enters the country. This in spite of having legal right to live and work here, and being married to an Englishman with whom she's had an English son.

Then they have a marker on them. This could be for a variety of reasons that they are aware of but might not be telling everyone about. The most common reasons might include:

Criminal convictions or arrests for certain crimes
Visa overstays
Previous possession of entry contraband typically large cash amounts cos if its drugs you'd be refused out of hand
Dodgy associates (criminal, political)
Membership or previous membership of proscribed organisations

Your friend probably knows why (but may not be keen to say) and UKBA know. I'm pleased to see that they don't let people just stroll in and out of the country and have a system for keeping an eye on particular people of interest.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [703 posts]
25th April 2014 - 14:16

2 Likes

Farky wrote:
Simple answer - IRISH VISA's - they DONT need British ones.

You're kidding right?

You'd have more chance of plaiting piss than getting the DFA getting them turned round in this amount of time!

Took me nearly 3 months to sort my passport last year.

posted by farrell [1557 posts]
25th April 2014 - 14:49

1 Like