Fresh row erupts, riders applying in Colombia previously had visas for Giro start in Belfast declined

UCI Professional Continental outfit Team Colombia says that it may have to pull out of the Tour of Turkey, which starts on Sunday. It claims that the British Embassy in Rome has failed to return eight riders’ passports that had been submitted to its consular section as part of an application for visas for next month’s Giro d’Italia, which starts in Northern Ireland.

In a statement published yesterday on its website, the team, which had been due to fly to Turkey today, said that despite applying for fast-track visas for the UK, the rider’s passports had not been returned.

Team manager Claudio Corti said: “We accompanied eight riders to Rome on April 10th and 14th and paid a significant extra-charge for the urgent procedure that should have guaranteed our passports would be returned within five days.

“Instead, the UK Embassy still holds the documents, without giving us any motivation, and in spite of the great comprehension and solidarity showed by Tour of Turkey’s Director Ahmet Ozgan, we might be forced to skip this race.”

He added that the delay was also casting uncertainty over the team’s participation in the Giro d’Italia, which begins in Belfast a fortnight today.

“Right now, we do not know where our riders’ passports are – whether in the Embassy’s offices in the UK or travelling somewhere – nor we can predict when they might be returned. It is an absurd situation that might even jeopardise our Giro d’Italia participation,” he added.

As reported here on road.cc earlier this week, four riders from Colombia had visa applications rejected when they applied for them at the British Embassy in their home country’s capital, Bogota.

Racing commitments mean that three of them – Team Colombia’s Carlos Quintero and Jarlinson Pantano, plus Trek Factory Racing’s Julien Arredondo – without a UK visa. They reportedly plan on securing them once in Europe.

A fourth, national champion and 2012 Giro stage winner Miguel Rubiano, stayed behind to resubmit his application which has now been granted. A visa has also finally been granted to Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Rigoberto Uran, runner-up in last year’s race and winner of an Olympic silver medal at London 2012.

Reasons for rejecting the visas were that the three for the Team Colombia riders had been submitted on the incorrect form, while in the case of Arredondo – who despite jetlag finished 11th in Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne – lack of knowledge of English and the failure of paperwork from Giro organisers RCS Sport were reported to be involved.

The identity of the eight riders whose passports have not been returned in Rome has not been disclosed. Due to the timings of the applications, it’s highly unlikely that Quintero or Pantano, currently racing in the Giro di Trentino in Italy, would have been among them given that they were in Colombia during or after the dates the applications were made.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the British Embassy in Colombia said: “The UK is proud to be the stage for a number of global sporting events, and in May 2014 is delighted to welcome cyclists from around the world during the opening of Giro di Italia [sic].

“The Embassy can confirm that four Colombian cyclists who have applied for UK visas to compete in the competition have already had their applications approved in Bogota. The remaining Colombian participants will apply for their visas in the proper category in our Europe offices.”

However, Colombian cycling blog La Cadenilla (The Chain) has claimed on Twitter that the statement was misleading.

At that point, it says, seven applications had been made but with Rubiano’s not yet reviewed, only three had been granted – to Lampre Merida’s Winner Anacona, Team Colombia’s Robinson Chalapud, and Uran.

One of the race favourites, Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana of Movistar, was already in possession of a visa for the UK.

We have asked Team Colombia for an update and we are also seeking clarification from the UK Embassy in Rome.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.