Los Angeles Times

In cycling-obsessed Colombia, he dreamed of glory. But first he needed a bike

TUNJA, Colombia - Steven Motavita was 13 when he bought a mountain bicycle to compete in local road races. It was cheap, with a heavy aluminum frame and fat tires unsuited for competition, but it was all he could afford with the money he made harvesting potatoes with two uncles who had shared his great cycling ambitions.

Riding along steep highways in the Colombian countryside, he soon met another young cyclist and learned about the Santiago de Tunja cycling club, a ragtag group of aspiring riders who gather most Saturdays under the shadow of a towering concrete soccer stadium in this colonial city.

Motavita joined the team that week and won his first race a month later, bringing home a tiny plastic trophy that he keeps on a wooden nightstand.

"My dad was so proud," Motavita said, beaming. "And look, it's so small."

But it wasn't long before the coaches stopped signing him up for races. He wasn't performing.

"My teammates all had

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