Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Makes Colombian Cycling So Unique? Part II

This is the second installment looking into Colombian cycling. My first installment talked about The Colombians and Colombia's Road Surfaces. (You can read it here). Part II is focused on Colombia's food and diet.

One of Colombia's highlights is the food. I like the local cuisine because so much of it is unprocessed and complements endurance sports. Daily staples here include rice, beans, plantain, eggs, chicken and fresh fruit juice. It may sound a little bland to the sophisticated pallet, but the point is that its very healthy. 

Colombia has approximately a dozen kinds of fruit you cannot get elsewhere. One of my favorite daily activities is walking down to the local Carulla (an upscale supermarket chain) to eat at the fruit bar. One kilogram of fruit costs $3. Examples of native fruits include guanabana, lulo, and uchuva. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Makes Colombian Cycling So Unique? Part I

This is the first installment of an ongoing series which will examine cycling in Colombia. Many of you wrote in asking such questions as: "How is the cycling in Colombia?" ..."What is Colombia's cycling culture?"..."How safe is cycling outside of Colombia's main cities?"..."Does the local diet suit endurance sports?"..."How hot are the female cyclists?"...and..."Duncan, I get the Alps, Pyrenees, and Dolomites, but Colombia WTF?!"

So, I'll attempt to answer your insightful questions. I expect to describe around 12-15 unique aspects of Colombian cycling over the next few weeks. Here are the first two (The Colombians and Road Surfaces):

The Colombians
Certainly most European cyclists are very friendly. I met countless cyclists at Le Tour, in cyclosportifs, and on the road. All were happy to chat and share cycling stories. But the Colombians are different. Colombian cyclists go out of their way to introduce themselves to a foreign cyclist. They are curious to know why I chose Colombia and how I learned about it. And they all ask for my phone number schedule a ride for the next week. Several invited me to their houses for dinner and/or to meet their families. I have not met more friendlier people anywhere in the world, including New Zealand.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Santa Fe de Antioquia

Santa Fe is a small, colonial town located on the far side of Medellin's western mountain range. Founded in 1541, Santa Fe is a popular tourist attraction partly because its been so well maintained. Santa Fe reminded me of Antigua in Guatemala (but without the vibrant colors).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Escobero: El 'Mortirolo' Colombiano

Loma del Escobero is regarded as Colombia's Mortirolo. The climb profiles are almost identical: Escobero ascends 930 meters over 9.6km (an average gradient of 9.7%) while Mortirolo ascends 1300 meters over 12.4km (a 10.5% average gradient). See below for the official climb profiles of each. 

Escobero felt a lot harder today than Mortirolo did back in August. Perhaps because most of the gradients in Colombia are 5-7%. Rarely do the slopes reach into the double digits here. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alto de Minas

I climbed Colombia's '3rd most mythical climb' (as the locals describe it) yesterday. Alto de Minas is located 30 km south of Medellin. Its a 42km climb rising from 600 meters to 2,450 meters. The problem is that I prefer loop rides and the climb is on the southern side of the mountain. Somehow, I had to get 72km south of Medellin without a simple out-and-back route. My friend Mauricio mapped a route that circumnavigates Minas by riding southwest from Medellin to Bolombolo, and then southeast following the Rio Cauca to La Pintada.

The day started out just great. I was up at 5.30am and left my apartment an hour later with clear skies and dry roads.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Llanogrande (pronounced "Jamo-grande" in Colombian Spanish) was on the cards for today. Llanogrande is the area just east of Medellin. It was a good ride, and a lot easier than yesterday. I'll just post a few photos. 

On the way home through Medellin, I accidentally discovered 'Ciclovia Medellin.' Every Sunday, Medellin closes several of its main streets to allow traffic-free cycling. I should not have been surprised; Ciclovia Bogata closes 120km of streets for 2 million cyclists! (Source: I will dedicate a post to Ciclovia Medellin at a later time.

We stopped at Ciclo Ramirez in a small town to borrow a floor-pump after one guy in our group punctured.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Santa Rosa: Vuelta de Leche

We rode 130km round-trip today to Santa Rosa. Colombians call this Vuelta de Leche (The Milk Ride) because of the large number of cows in the area. I am told the high altitude (2400 meters), wind, and rain make for perfect conditions to raise cows. That is a little strange to hear, since New Zealand produces so much dairy yet we are mostly at sea level. 

I have just a few photos from today's out-and-back route. All of the pictures below are from the first half of the ride. We hammered home on the second half, constantly trying to escape the rain, so I never had a chance to pull out the camera. Plus, Vuelta de Leche's 74 short but sharp hills take a toll. By the end, we were all pretty buggered. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

San Jeronimo

I planned this ride for Tuesday, but postponed it to Wednesday because of rain. Aside from the rain, not riding on Tuesday was probably a good thing considering Monday night's 3 martinis, 2 glasses of wine, and 4 hours sleep.

San Jeronimo is a small colonial town that was founded in 1616, making it one of the oldest towns in Colombia. It is located 35km west of Medellin. Thirty five kilometers may not sound like much, but you have to cross Alto de Boqueron, at 2500 meters altitude, to get there.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Clasico RCN

Today was my introduction to Colombian cycling, and what a cool day it was. One of my Colombian contacts, Alejandro Jimenez Moreno, hooked me up with his cycling friend, Mauricio Leyva. I had the chance to meet with Mauricio and his wife, Tatiana, last night for dinner in Medellin. They didn't know me until then, but they went far out of their way to introduce me to the local cycling community.

This morning I met with Alejandro (a different Alejandro), Sergio, and Juan (Mauricio couldn't make it, unfortunately). We set off to ride part of today's Clasico RCN stage. Clasico RCN is Colombia's second most important stage race, after the Vuelta a Colombia, and attracts top Pro Continental teams including Movistar. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dallas in the Big Ring

In the big ring? Of course I was in the big ring today. I was riding in Dallas. I've never seen anything so flat. I barely needed to change gears. In fact, cyclists here only need about three gears, and there is certainly no need for the small chainring. Here is the profile from today's 139km ride:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Next Cycling Adventure: Viva Colombia!

Well, I am off to Colombia for two months! I visited the beautiful city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast in 2009 and since then, I've always wanted to return. So, last week I bought a plane ticket and arranged to rent an apartment in Medellin. 

Most of you probably don't know that cycling is Colombia's second biggest sport (after soccer). And, Colombians have featured prominently in world professional cycling since the mid-1980s. At first, they weren't taken seriously. The peloton often blamed the Colombians for crashes, and considered their racing tactics amateurish for the European ranks. However, within just a couple of years Colombian cyclists such as Luis Herrera and Fabio Parra were winning Tour de France mountain stages and regularly finishing in the top-10 of the General Classification.