As Le Tour approaches rapidly, memories of Tours past come to the fore, and riders who may have gone unnoticed for the remainder of the racing season are once again lauded for their performances on the biggest stage there is. We know them as the Evanescent Riders.
In 1993, one such rider was the Colombian climber Álvaro Mejía. ’93 was also the year that former ER90’s subject Zenon Jaskula made his mark, then just as promptly disappeared. In fact, ’93 could probably be recognised as the greatest Tour for such fleeting performances, as it was at the height of jet-fueling in the peloton. Even Tony Rominger made a ‘miraculous recovery from hay fever’ that year, aided and abetted by the good Dr Ferrari’s Magic Climbing Potion (No. 5). And always there, hanging on like a limpet in the mountains, was Senór Mejía, resplendent in his Specialized foam-dome helmet, often in arm warmers, no matter how hot the day, or how hot the heat being applied by Mig, Rominger, Cappucino et al. Just there, not really doing anything. I don’t recall him attacking once, but I don’t recall him getting dropped either.
To be fair, MejÍa wasn’t a total flash in the pan, as he’d won the Tour’s Young Rider category in ’91, so the little guy had some talent. Add to this wins in the Ruta du Sud and Vuelta a Murcia, and we see that he could go uphill over several stages pretty well. He even managed to get into the final selection at the Worlds in Stuttgart in ’91, but not surprisingly was blown away in the sprint by Bugno, Big Mig and Steven Rooks. The way he bridged across to them after being gapped on the final climb was pretty impressive for a lightweight climber though…
Being on the Motorola team after they merged with Colombian outfit Postobon at the start of the season really shot Álvaro into the spotlight. I’m only speculating here, but I’d guess he was on the ’93 Tour roster to support Andy Hampsten in the hills. Yet by the time they hit the Champs Elyssees, Mejía had outshone his team leader to end up 4th on GC. Not that Andy would’ve minded, being the stand-up guy that he is, and he speaks very highly of Mejía in this excellent interview on Cycling Inquisition. (He also explains Mejía’s habit of over-dressing.)
Like any true Evanescent, Mejía didn’t back up his biggest result in the following year’s Tour, finishing outside the top 30, and only managed a 16th in ’95. He didn’t get close to the front in the mountains, and retired at the end of the season, returning to Colombia to become a Doctor, and had a stint as team medico for the Movistar team (as far as I can make out from the little information available on the googlewebs). Maybe he was inspired to further his medical knowledge after his time in the thick of the EPO era. Whatever the case, Álvaro Mejía spent time mixing it up with the biggest names in the sport, and no-one can take that away from him.
Check out his sweet steel Merckx/Caloi here…