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
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:
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.