Artisan in Colombia: A doll maker standing out in the crowd

Have you ever seen Julian Alaphilippe and Egan Beral look like this? Artisan Nicolas Molano Avila is at Tour Colombia 2.1 showcasing his hand-carved wooden dolls, each made to look like a cycling star.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Due to the cancelation of last week’s Colombia Tour 2.1, we have a host of features, interviews, photo galleries, and other stories to celebrate Colombian cycling as part of “Colombia Week.”

Like so many fans lining the roads and screaming for their cycling heroes, Nicolas Molano Avila drove up to Paípa from Bogotá to see the departure every morning of the 2020 Tour of Colombia 2.1. He is squeezed up to the fence, holding a two-foot tall doll with the yellow Tour de France jersey of Team Ineos, obviously resembling the country’s latest superstar, Egan Bernal.

“It takes me three months to make them, but not only just the three months working on the dolls but much more time it takes studying the features, and other traits of the person,” Avila said.

The locals were, um, intrigued by Avila’s creations. Photo: Rebecca Reza

Avila is a native of Piedras, Tolima in Boyacá, a town not far from Paípa he says. He tells me his middle name is “just like Sebastian Molano” but confirms no relation to the stage winner. His passion about the sport and its stars is easily apparent when seeing the detail and care he has given to his dolls.

“It’s a looking at the face, that’s the motivating part,” he said. “Studying the faces so that I can make them just like them. It takes me three months making them this size. So far, I have sold 100 and at this time I’m working to make a collection of these cyclists and other artists.”

A cyclist himself, he claims he is the “ultimate cycling fan!” Thus far his collection includes Chris Froome, which he made last year after the four-time Tour de France champion began his season in the country. Nairo Quintana as well, though just like the real thing, his Nairo figurine was not able to make it to Paípa. Rigoberto Urán, Julian Alaphilippe, Fabio Aru, and Alvaro Hodeg are all there too. They sell for €7,000 he says.

The Aru doll is one of the non-South American riders in the collection. Photo: Rebecca Reza

“It’s like paying for an hour of art,” Avila says, shrugging off the high price tag. “Nobody else in the world makes them, only me. They’re made of cedarwood, I carve them out and add the details with a lot of attention before painting them.”

Current race-leader Sergio Higuita is missing from the line of dolls he has with him at the start.

“Higuita is new, but the more experience he gains, I will make one of him.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.