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.
I didn't know or recognize any of today's participants. But it was cool anyway, and very Tour de France-esque: every team has a director-sportif, team cars and buses, and soigneurs. And, all the locals were out in force to watch their teams. In fact, many supporters were standing road-side several hours before the race came through, just like Le Tour. The first photo below is the stage leader (and overall race leader) cresting Alto de Minas, the final climb of today's stage, before the descent into the finish at Medellin. (Alto de Minas is a 40km climb that starts at 600 meters altitude and peaks at 2450 meters).
While we waited for the peloton to arrive, I met Oliverio Rincon. Rincon is a former Colombian pro who raced with ONCE and Kelme in the 1990s. His wins include 1 stage of the Tour de France, 1 stage of the Giro d'Italia, and 2 stages of the Vuelta a Espana. Rincon advised me I could be a much stronger climber if I wasn't so fat.
As for our ride, today was a solid intro. We climbed a total of 2500 meters, including the upper half of Alto de Minas (I'll be back to climb all 40km of it). Highlights included the local food: fresh orange juice, arepa con queso, and tinto coffee. All good!
Most cyclists in Colombia ride with a motorcycle escort. The escorts carry extra wheels, food and liquids. Our escort accompanied us until we reached a checkpoint preventing any motorized vehicles (due to the Clasico RCN race) from going any further.
Here are some pictures from the rest of today's ride:
And, as I mentioned earlier, thousands of Colombians lined the streets to watch the race: