Buitrago: “I think we are close to Pogacar”

Stage 17 of the 2022 Giro d’Italia was the moment when the Bahrain Victorious he realized that the intense work of two years with Santiago Buitrago was beginning to bear fruit. That having invested money and time in the shy but responsible child, from the town of Suba in Bogotá, had been worth it.

Buitrago was just 19 years old when the Arab team signed him. He was racing with Team Cinelli of Italy after training in the team of national champion Esteban Chaves. Although he already had an idea of ​​what it was like to race in Europe, everything changed for him when he went on a World Tour. On the bike and down from it. It was the best thing for him to have left young and adapt while he was racing in a team in formation.

Three years after being part of the highest category of cycling, having won that stage in the Giro, proving that he can be the squad boss and having achieved victories in Saudi Arabia and Burgos, his team does not hesitate to give him more responsibilities . In addition, he has colleagues who not only contribute to him, they also trust him.

The Vuelta a Andalucía was the sample of this. It was not only the third place on the podium, but also his participation in what Bahrain achieved during the five days of competition.. He got into breakaways, fought against the wind, helped Mikel Landa and was third. He was a key part of a team made up of names like Damiano Caruso, Jack Haig, Andrea Pasqualon and Matej Mohoric.

And the best. Having competed against Tadej Pogacar. The man of the moment. The unbeatable on the road, but a good friend off it. “We went on the same flight to Barcelona and we were together at the airport sharing,” she said.

About this and about the race, about the next competition, about Colombian cycling and more, spoke the young cyclist who will surely have the opportunity to command his team in one of the greats of the year.

How was the experience in Andalusia?

“Very happy to have been able to finish the Tour of Andalusia. Five quite tough stages, but very happy with the team for having finished second and third overall, to have been able to be in the fight, the exceptional teammates. They tried from the breakaway, they tried to snatch the victory from Pogacar who was very strong, but it was very positive for us”.

What was the teamwork like and how did you support it?

“For this competition, Mikel Landa was the leader and I was the co-leader. Always with the help of Caruso, with his experience, with Jack Haig, who also showed that he is at a very good level and the team’s work was focused on competing in the general classification, fighting in stages, being active in breakaways and I think that we made a great work group and it is the same group that will be in the Tirreno Adriátrico. The team is very happy with their performance and how we are leading the season”.

You and Mikel Landa lived a duel in the race too…

“The first stage left the classification defined when Mikel and I were in the fight of the race. The rest of the team supported us a lot due to the difficulties, the wind, Movistar and Ineos who also wanted to be on the podium. We did it. The team supported both me and Mikel for that third place. I found myself very well. Mikel was very good and he was second and I was third and it’s a good balance. I think we both did our best for the team.”

The next race will be the Tirreno Adriatico…

“It will be tougher because it is already a World Tour, all the teams will be there, there will be a higher level. It will be a very hard seven days, it is a tough race, the weather will not be favourable. The idea is to go fight and we hope to be good in the general classification, be it with me or with any other rider on the team”.

How was the competition with Tadej Pogacar?

“A much superior Tadej Pogacar was seen. I tried to follow him, but he showed his good form and the finishes favored him a lot. He is a very explosive runner and it was hard for me to follow him on those steep climbs. But I am very happy and I hope that this year will be an important leap closer to him. That will be important.”

It’s important to be closer, but is there anything in competing with him that makes him different from you?

“Honestly, I haven’t noticed anything unusual. It’s just that he is a runner who currently has a higher level than us. Tell you that he trains more or that he eats something different, I don’t know. We did everything possible to win, but like Tadej at this moment it is very difficult to follow him. So far we are starting the season and we hope to be closer to him”.

And did you have a chance to talk to him at any point?

“Yes, he is a cyclist who lends himself to talk. He was very nice because after the podium we had the same flight to Barcelona and we shared a good time at the airport, we had a drink, we ate sushi and he is a normal boy, calm and cool. I think that off the bike we are all teammates and the rivalry goes to another point”.

What do you think about Colombian cycling today?

“I believe that Colombian cycling has had cyclists for several decades trying to represent the country in the best way. In recent years, Pogacar, Evenepoel and Roglic have been superior to us, but that doesn’t take away from who we are. Martínez won Algarve, Higuita was there, I was fighting for the title, López won in San Juan. We have had a good start and this helps young people in Colombia to continue dreaming and planning their careers. There are more than 200 boys who run the minor categories, believe me that in more than one there is a giant talent to continue representing us in the future in the best way as the references have done “.

What do you think is missing in the training?

“What has helped me the most has been coming to Europe when I was young. Having adapted to an Italian team, learning the culture, learning to ride cycling here. What I tell the boys in Colombia the most, because I have many friends who are starting in their under 23 categories, is that there is only one Nairo, Rigoberto is the same, Egan is the same, they are all the greats and the worst thing is to compare . The processes are different, there are some that are adapted to the year, there are others that take a little longer. The most important thing is to go step by step, take it easy. When you enjoy every workout things go well. Dream big, but work with dedication for the dreams that sooner or later come true”.

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