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Rebecca Bell writes, Meet Manuel “Triki” Beltrán, Liquigas stage racer, mountain climbing specialist, and former team-mate of Chechu at Team Discovery Channel.

Triki rode for USPS/Discovery from 2003 to 2006, and is among those elite riders, like Chechu, who was chosen for his ability to escort Lance Armstrong through the Alps and the Pyrenees.

Triki was born on May 28, 1971, in southern Spain, near the city of Jaen in Andalusia. His father is an olive farmer, and Triki takes an active interest in the farm.

Not only does he return home to help with the harvest and the pressing after the cycling season ends, he’s also an unofficial ambassador for olives, olive oil, olive trees, and all things olive.

Believing in the delicious and healthy qualities of his family’s olive oil, Triki supplies it to the team at every race. He’s happy to convert all newcomers to the use of this elixir, and engages energetically and often in this favorite topic of conversation.

But Triki is even more passionate about cycling. Having ridden with Banesto and Mapei, Triki was a teammate of Jan Ullrich at Team Coast in 2003.

Training more rigorously than ever to be able to support the German superstar through the mountains in the Tour de France, Triki found himself on a team that was financially imploding early in the year. With Coast payroll in doubt, he received a call from Johan Bruyneel at USPS, and in spite of Ullrich’s reliance on him for his climbing ability, Triki said yes to Postal and joined the team.

He said “I had the opportunity to exchange one great champion for another, and now I ride for Lance Armstrong…All that work paid off when I rode with Lance.”

Asked what it was like to work with great champions Ullrich and Armstrong, Triki replied “I was very happy to work with these kinds of champions and I feel very content to be able to ride with this level of competition. I also feel that I am riding in a time of historical significance. I’ve been able to ride day after day with champions and to be able to see their work…For me a champion is more about what a person is like on the inside.”

Riding with distinction since joining the American team, Triki Beltrán has ranked highly in the Vuelta a España, placing 6th in the race as a whole in 2003 after having worn the gold jersey for six stages. In 2005, in spite of a plague of injuries, he placed 6th at the Ruta del Sol, 8th at the Tour of Romandie, and 16th at the Dauphiné Libéré. He has ridden the Giro d’Italia twice, in 1996 and 2002, and won the Tour of Catalunya in 1999. All this, and many more high rankings, is in addition to possessing a rare gift that is seldom recognized with a prize: being a true warrior in the mountains.

Many Discovery Channel Team fans don’t get to know Triki because they don’t speak Spanish. Triki has the sunniest disposition in the peloton. He smiles and laughs often. He emphasizes the positive, and often uses the words happy, friendly, and beautiful. Besides cycling and olives, Triki enjoys photography. And…cookies!

Asked by Daily Peloton reporter Cathy Mehl where he got his nickname, this was his story: “I used to take cookies to races and teammates called me the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, which in Spanish is ‘Triki’. You know, the guy who is always eating cookies. Because I always had a box of cookies in my suitcase. And one day one of my guys said ‘I’m going to call you Triki because you always have cookies!’ so from that day on, I was not Manuel, or Beltrán, they just call me Triki. It’s a friendly name, don’t you think?”

Cookie Monster

For a short video of Triki from the 2004 Tour de France, go to Eurosport.

Thanks to Cathy Mehl for sharing information about Triki with us. Read her article “Los Tres Hombres de las Montanas II” in the Daily Peloton.