Evanescent Riders of the 90s: Álvaro Meji­a

Mejía, a pioneer of helmets in the peloton. The glasses strap never caught on though…

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 Senor 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, Mejia 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.

Salud Álvaro!

Check out his sweet steel Merckx/Caloi here…

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Mejia/”/]

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24 Replies to “Evanescent Riders of the 90s: Álvaro Meji­a”

  1. Great story Brett, but despite Cycling Inquisition and Andy Hampsten’s assertions I’m pretty sure Postobon were never absorbed by or became a part of the Motorola set up. Mejia was poached from them for sure, but Postobon carried on as a separate entity until 1996, the same year Motorola ended their sponsorship.

  2. Another fine contribution to the series. Thanks, Brett. Apart from the infernal musical accompaniment (why do they do that?), that video clip is great, too. (Am saving the AH interview for later, to savor when I have uninterrupted time.)

  3. Nice one Brett. I had completely forgotten our little friend and Jaskula! Wow names from an era where SBS was my only link to this world, albeit for 30 minutes a night.
    Thank you for this. Excellent stuff.

  4. Nice one, Bretto!

    Never heard of Mejia, so thanks for the history lesson.

    Not sure about the sunnies strap, they’ve caught on BIG TIME for frat dudes in the U.S.!

    Looking forward to The Tour!

  5. A nice hors d’oeuvre to prepare our palates for the next few weeks. Merci beaucoup!

  6. nice…i haven’t heard of him either.

    So thanks for the lesson, just proves there is always room to learn.

  7. But, but, but, what you are saying is, it was not his innate Colombian climbing skills? Was Big Mig as juiced as everyone else? I never considered that one.

    Also, I would have bet a lot of money that Worlds was a three up sprint finish, somehow MejÍa was written out of my memory. And he was so far behind by the finish line he didn’t show up in the photos.

  8. Maybe the arm warmers were due to some cultural aversion to dark skin, the Filipino part of my family are tan conscious.

  9. In the Cycling Inquisition interview with Matt Rendell it’s implied that it was because he liked to use as much kit as once as possible! Apparently he used to stuff his pockets with as many free gels as he could, and wear extra layers to the point of heat exhaustion. Mad!

  10. @G’phant

    Another fine contribution to the series. Thanks, Brett. Apart from the infernal musical accompaniment (why do they do that?), that video clip is great, too. (Am saving the AH interview for later, to savor when I have uninterrupted time.)

    That musical accompaniment brings me back to the days of watching the Tour on CBS (I think).
    I think John Tesh is the VoiceOver and think that’s his music.
    It used to shit me how they used to over dramatize it all instead of relying on the power of the images.
    That being said, at least they were bringing it to the (North) American audience.
    As a side bar, it’s interesting to observe how they feel the need to recap who is in the break with the slow mo and dramatic voice. This seems common in much of the media coming out of America these days, and speaks, to me at least, of catering either to an audience of a really short attention span, or worse, being based on the assumption that the audience is so stupid, that they have to be reminded of what they were watching 30 seconds ago.
    Rant over.

  11. @mouse
    I think it came from Olympics coverage in the 80’s when the network (NBC?) decided that they were going to have to sell ginned-up drama so that people who didn’t understand what the hell they were watching (“Look Marlene, there’s bowling on ice!”) would tune in. You still can’t watch them without sitting through endless personal backstories so one at least cares about the people if not the actual sport. Makes it virtually unwatchable at times.

    John Tesh album in 1995: Sax on the Beach. John Tesh album in 2010: Worship God

  12. Still available on Amazon. Time to order before this weekend. TV down, Stereo up.

    or perhaps

  13. @MrBigCog

    Man…look at that monstrosity of a helmet.

    Actually, that was a REALLY hot helmet at that time. Probably of the first generation to have the in-moulded shell.

  14. Clearly the European peleton had not yet adopted hard shell helmets (oli I’m sure will fill us in on the details of that. Was it Kivilev’s death that forced the decision?).
    Amateur racing in North America had mandated hard shell helmets in about 1989 or 1990.
    I recall lusting after the first generation Specialized foam helmets (no shell) because they were black.
    All the other helmets at that time were white polystyrene that you had to wear a Lycra cover over.
    Used to think the team kit one I had was ace, but looking back at old photos now, it just looks stupid compared to the hairnet days. It was also down the the proportion of the helmet as well. It was beer cooler tech. Designers thought that helmets had to be thick for protection, so most of them looked like, well, a round beer cooler.

  15. @McTyke
    As an American who doesn’t understand cricket but sometimes watches it on YouTube as a sleep aid, I clearly missed the memo that the game was played by throwing bicycle wheels at the sticks/stumps/wickets(?).

  16. @mouse
    That helmet really was the nicest one you could get at the time and the Giro helmets that Greg LeMond wore. Apart from that you had the Bell lids which were not as pretty!
    Great video post, I was actually at the race that year and have never seen the finish till now, 20 years later. I was on the uphill section before the loop at the top of the course, the road was like a section of 3 lane freeway up & down. It must have been 34deg F that day and very humid. The actual race was really tough with the pace high all day & a bunch that was getting smaller by the lap, even on the downhill these guys were fast!
    Mejia did the ride of his life to finish with Bugno & Indurain in that group. But I guess we all know now why riders like him didn’t follow up in 92 & 93 with big results.

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