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Colombian who won stages and mountains jerseys at all three Grand Tours warns others to protect themselves from the sun

Luis Herrera, arguably Colombia’s greatest ever cyclist, has revealed he has skin cancer and says the disease is due to the long days spent pedalling under the sun during his riding career.

The 1987 Vuelta a Espana champion, aged 56, made the revelation to the YouTube-based programme Testigo Directo [Direct Witness] in an episode entitled Pedaleando contra el cáncer [pedalling against cancer].

During the programme, Herrera, known as Lucho, showed the lesions the condition has caused on his hands, arms and face.

He said that when he went to the dermatologist after “a large stain that was not normal” appeared on his forearm, other spots were identified on his hands and face. After a biopsy, he was diagnosed with skin cancer.

His dermatologist Andrés Luque told the programme that Herrera had a basal cell carcinoma – according to the British Skin Foundation, a non-melanoma skin cancer, as well as the most common type of the disease.

Dr Luque said that the former cyclist had already had invasive cancers, and that he would undergo treatment for his skin cancer because the nature of the disease meant that lesions would reappear, with one possibility being burning them off through freezing them in cryotherapy sessions.

Herrera warned people who spend time exercising outdoors to take care of their skin and protect themselves from the sun. "If you don’t look after yourself, no-one will look after you," he said.

> Cycling survival — how to avoid sunburn & stay comfortable

Nicknamed El Jardinerito [The Little Gardener], Herrera had a successful amateur career before turning professional with the Café de Colombia team in 1985. He retired in 1992, spending the final two years of his career with the Postobón–Manzana–Ryalcao team.

A multiple stage winner at all three Grand Tours, besides his overall victory at the Vuelta, he also won the mountains classification at aeach of the races, once at the Giro d'Italia and twice at both the Vuelta and the Tour de France.

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.