Much like the probably harmless flu-like symptoms you woke up with on Saturday, it’s never a great idea to Google a cyclist that you’ve never heard of. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a handful of race reports that probably need translating to your native language. However, if you’re careless, you’ll find yourself staring at an old profile that prints a few random race results, wildly guesses a birth date, and attaches photo of a completely different rider. Things always end badly and you’ll annoy your only cycling friend by talking casually about the prologue of the Tour of Al Zubarah. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist Googling Vuelta San Juan superstar Gonzalo Najar, so you don’t have to.
I was pleasantly surprised with the opening page of my search. Najar – Argentina’s national champion – had roared up the Alto Colorado at last week’s Vuelta San Juan crushing his rivals with an early attack. In third place at the start of the day was Kelme-throwback Oscar Sevilla, currently plying his trade at the mighty Medellin-Inder. After side-by-side photo analysis, I can confirm that the 41-year old baby-faced Spaniard looks younger than our 24-year old stage winner.
Some sites were quick to laud Najar as if he had borrowed his cousin’s bike at the start of the day before hammering a field peppered with World Tour talent. Others dropped his ‘El Condor’ nickname casually as if it had been printed on Alpine passes for the last five years.
I was surprised to find very little that accused Najar of being a no-good doper emerging from cycling’s Wild West. Most articles acknowledged that Argentina’s champion had shown at least some potential, was clearly suited by altitude, and was super motivated by his home advantage. Furthermore, he had hardly beaten the elite with faltering riders including erratic compatriot Eduardo Sepulveda and regular January performer Rodolfo Torres.
Nevertheless, this is cycling and I was only ever one click away from a comment section sentencing young Najar to a future doping ban. Sadly, there’s very little to offer in terms of a defence. I don’t know when Najar was last tested or exactly what for. I have no idea what Sindicato Empleados Públicos of San Juan have in terms of an anti-doping policy. I’ll save that Google search for another day.
On Page 2 things quickly took a turn for the Spanish. El Condor had caused quite a buzz in his home country after flying up ‘el cerro’ and plenty of sites had covered the story. Not yet satisfied, I Googled deeper.
Eventually I found what I was looking for. Gonzalo Najar was involved in a breakaway on Stage 4 of the last edition of the Tour de San Luis in 2016. He attacked from a break on the gentle Alto De La Candela before being swallowed up by the peloton and finishing 111th.
In 2017, Najar took his second victory at the Tour of Mendoza, which sounds like a fun little race by all accounts. It starts at the Plaza de San Carlos, joins the massive Route 40, and ends at the Historic Manzano. I was unable to find any footage but it sounds like Najar’s team controlled the race before he nipped away for a 19 second victory.
I think the discovery of these two minor Argentine victories – alongside his dazzling San Juan success – is more than enough to earn Najar a six year contract at BMC.