Four years ago, Germán Gómez sat by the roadside and wept. Racing for Colombia at the World Championships in the junior men’s road race, the 18-year-old had arrived in Yorkshire in form: three days earlier, he’d come 15th in the time trial. He’d carefully played his cards early in the road race, working his way into a dangerous group on the winding, undulating roads around Harrogate, until – with just under 80 km left for the race to run – disaster struck.
The camera caught the moment in agonising detail: Gómez standing by the side of the road, rear wheel off, tubular separated from rim. He waved it at the passing convoy of cars, looking for support. Cars and motorbikes kept whooshing by. His face crumpled; his torso was wracked with heavy sobs. He sank to the grass.
Still the camera lingered. After a full minute of waiting, with the race-winning move now firmly up the road, Gómez rose from the verge, picked up his bike and wheel, and started walking up the road. The video cuts at around two minutes; he’d finally get a wheel after four, and finish the race a devastated 60th. “In that moment, I was despairing, powerless,” he said afterwards.
The junior races of a World Championships are seldom a drawcard event, but there was something about Gómez’s story that resonated, making it one of the more indelible images of the 2019 edition. Perhaps it was the naked display of human emotion. Perhaps it was the relatability of the moment: the puncture at the wrong time, the anguish of a dream going up in smoke. “Ever since I was called up for the national team for the Worlds, the only thing I had in mind was to do my best for the country. During the whole race, I wanted to give 100 percent of what I had in order to represent Colombia in the best possible way,” a wounded Gómez would say.
There are hundreds of riders that go through the junior ranks, some of whom work their way on to bigger and better things in the sport, and many of whom don’t. American Quinn Simmons, the winner that day in Harrogate, promptly signed a WorldTour contract with Trek-Segafredo. For Germán Gómez, part of the sadness doubtless came from not having been able to show what he could do – for himself, and for his country – and a kind of ‘Sliding Doors’ moment of what could have been. But the dream wasn’t over.
So he returned to Colombia. He trained, and he raced. The next year he finished third overall in the U23 Vuelta a Colombia. He started racing for Colombia’s prestigious Colombia Tierra de Atletas – GW Bicicletas club team, riding at a selection of Italian races including the “baby Giro.” In 2022, he’d win the U23 Colombian title, and attract the attention of Gianni Savio – the famed Italian talent scout who’d launched the careers of Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa through his Androni squad.
A leap to the professional ranks for Gómez seemed assured – until the Spanish company Drone Hopper pulled the plug on its title sponsorship, and the team was forced to drop back to continental level, racing as the Colombian-based GW-Shimano Sidermec squad. “It’s a solution to survive with dignity,” as Savio put it. For Gómez, it was simultaneously an opportunity and also another setback in a long line of them. But just like he had in Yorkshire all those years ago, he kept moving forward.
2023 would finally deliver a breakthrough. At the “baby Giro” – now called Giro Next Gen – Gómez would finish in fourth position overall. There were promising results on the Colombian circuit, as well – a national U23 ITT win, the GC in the Vuelta de la Juventad stage race. He’d just have to hope that someone was paying attention, and that his dream to be a professional cyclist could finally be realised.
Yesterday came the news that had been four years in the making: Germán Gómez signed a two-year deal with the Italian squad Eolo-Kometa. Not quite WorldTour, but still a quality ProTeam where he’ll come under the guidance of the likes of Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso. A bigger program will await – maybe even a step up from the baby Giro to the real deal.
In an emotional and reflective Instagram post, Gómez wrote of his long journey to the pro ranks – a path that has been walked by many other cyclists, but seldom with such a clear arc from public heartbreak to dream-fulfilment. It clearly resonates with his team, too: in a post of their own, they thanked him for delivering his best in all aspects, calling out his patience. Now, they said, “it’s time to see you in the big leagues, enjoying this new step in your sporting and professional life. Eolo Kometa takes a jewel.”
Four years ago Germán Gómez cried on the side of a road. Today, he wrote of how “with patience, hard work and enthusiasm, goals can be achieved. I have enjoyed it in all its moments and circumstances, accompanied by people who have taught me the right way to get the reward I longed for since I started this beautiful adventure in cycling.” It’s just a signature on a contract for a ProTeam, but it represents a lifetime of persistence.
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