Sunday’s race wasn’t exactly a dull one: Onlookers could catch a glimpse of each man, female and child, jogging or sprinting across the beach. During one of the minor turns on the track at Barra de Tijuca, an entire field lined up for a high-five.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the race was its political dimension. Athletes for both the frontrunners and challengers wore yellow, a symbol of Brazil’s independence movement, which began after an 1821 naval victory over France. Brazil has worn yellow since then. Its unofficial colors are white and green — the colors of President Dilma Rousseff’s party. The two republics fought bloody battles in the 19th century over independence. Other orange countries in Latin America are Bolivia and Argentina.
Sunday’s race was also notable for the distance between the frontrunners and the world’s biggest orange country. Due to bad weather, no rider from Spain or Germany came from out of the world to take part, leaving Samuel Sanchez of Spain, Philippe Gilbert of Belgium and Sergio Henao of Colombia to ride against two Brazilian favorites: Nairo Quintana of Colombia and Alejandro Valverde of Spain.
And if you followed their Twitter feeds, both American Garmin-Sharp’s Bo Levi Mitchell and Mexican Team Movistar’s Jesus Hernandez seemed to be sending a message with their shirts.
According to Biography.com, Quintana is the son of a farmer and descendant of a farmer.
Many had predicted that the race would be tainted by concerns about Zika, but Quintana and Valverde staved off rumors of any personal bugs, posting a series of selfies with fans.
Quintana drew criticism from anti-Vaccine activists last year in the race he won in the Giro d’Italia after drawing criticism from anti-Vaccine activists for voicing his support for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in April at a campaign rally.
In a cycling-crazy country like Brazil, voters have tended to vote for their home nation in elections.