Tulcan, Ecuador,Jan 16 (EFE).- With his distinctive and unmistakable long hair, a distinguishing characteristic of the Kichwa people, Elvis Cotacachi has become Ecuador’s first professional cyclist and has begun to fill a gap in the national sports panorama with the aim of following in the track laid down by his friend Richard Carapaz.
Although he confessed to EFE that his big idol is Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, Cotacachi was born, lives and trains in the northern Andean province of Carchi, located on Ecuador’s border with Colombia, the same town in which Carapaz was born and with whom he has had the chance to train in the green mountain countryside.
“He’s a good friend. We get along pretty well and he gives me advice as to how I should train, how I should eat and how you have to take care of yourself,” said Cotacachi regarding Ecuador’s Olympic champion, who also won the 2019 Giro de Italia.
“He’s one of the greats who I admire a lot as a person and athlete, and at some point I’d like to get to where he’s gotten,” said Cotacachi, who on Monday is celebrating his 23rd birthday and is currently riding with the team of Jhonatan Narvaez, an Ecuadorian cyclist who competes with Great Britain’s INEOS Grenadiers.
In the last edition of the Vuelta a Ecuador, he was able to win the first stage of the race and he did it right in Tulcan, the capital of Carchi province, which made it even more special for him, he said.
“That gives me a lot of confidence to keep on with my training and a lot of motivation,” the cyclist said.
Although Cotacachi is from Tulcan, as a Kichwa he traces his roots back to Otavalo, a town in the northern province of Imbabura, from where his family moved for better work opportunities in the border city.
However, it was in his parents’ native province where he began to become interested in cycling after participating in a race in Peguche for the Pawkar Raymi celebration, in which he took part without any training but finished in third place.
It was then that he knew that cycling was for him, after having played soccer from age 5 through 11 and track from age 10 to 12.
“I was motivated from that point. Then, I saw that in Tulcan several boys and young men were training and I approached them, and I was able to meet my first trainer, Neptali Taticuan, and I took part in Colombia in the Vuelta al Valle and street competitions like in Bucaramanga, along with others in Colombia and Ecuador,” Cotacachi said.
From that point on, his mother – Mariela Santillan – says that “the only thing” for her and her husband to do was “to give him a lot of support because he’s a very self-sacrificing and very tough athlete, but it’s about supporting the love he feels for this sport, and helping him get ahead and fulfill his dreams.”
These days, Cotacachi is in the early stages of an intense year during which he hopes to participate in the national championship, which will be held in February in Quito, and later to make some trips to Colombia and focus on the Vuelta a Ecuador in hopes of having “some European team notice us.”
Whatever happens, the Kichwa cyclist said that he will keep his hair proudly long. He’s not thinking about cutting it.
“I’ve seen guys who in Otavalo cut their hair to resemble something they’re not. In my case, I ride with my long hair. I’m keeping it. Wherever they see me with this long hair, right away they know I’m Ecuadorian,” Cotacashi said.
“For me, I’m proud to represent them. The fact that my parents are from Imbabura also gets people from Carchi and Imbabura to support me,” he said.
Apart from cycling, Cotacachi also got started during the Covid-19 lockdown as a “YouTuber” by posting a series of videos about travel and regarding his daily life with his family in Tulcan.