Flower farms thrive in Colombia in large part because of the country’s high altitude — a characteristic that, as it turns out, also helped create the ideal training conditions for a future cycling champion.
Over the weekend, Egan Bernal, 22, became the youngest athlete to win the Tour de France since 1909 and the first champion ever from Colombia. Bernal was born in Zipaquirá,outside of Bogotá and a number of his family members have worked for flower growers, including his mother, who graded cut flowers for export.
“I think it’s going to take me a few days to realize what I have done,” a tearful Bernal said. “This is the first Tour de France for Colombia. It’s not just mine, but for everyone. Our country deserves it.”
José Restrepo, the general manager of Ayurá SAS – Pride and Eclipse Flowers near Bogotá, said Bernal’s victory feels like a countrywide celebration. For the last 10 years, Bernal’s uncle, Alvaro Bernal, has worked for a security company that contracts with area flower farms, including Ayurá-Pride and Eclipse.
“The Bernal family has always been linked to cycling,” Restrepo said, noting that Alvaro rides his bike to work regularly, a journey of nearly 40 miles round trip. “Through the years, Egan has visited on several occasions and it’s common to see Alvaro’s brother, Egan’s father, waiting for him when he leaves work to go out and practice this beautiful sport.”