A friend suggested riding with one of Colombia's development teams. So, at 7am this morning, I met 10-12 young cyclists from the EPM and Shimano GW development teams. (EPM is a utility company in Medellin and GW is a frame manufacturer). Like Major League Baseball's farming systems, development teams feed professional cycling teams. EPM and Shimano GW have UCI Continental status. An EPM rider finished second overall in the 2011 Tour of Utah (behind Levi Leipheimer), and the team won three stages. No small feat - the Tour of Utah is one of the biggest races in the US.
My worries about holding on were well founded. After a short warm-up, we hit an 800 meter climb up to Alto de la Virgen on the Medellin-Bogota highway. The last few kilometers were painful; I really struggled.
The kids on the development teams are aged around 18. In theory, I am closer to my peak than an 18 year-old (assuming athletic performance peaks at age 30), although, I am on the "other side" of my peak. But, any strength advantage I might have was certainly offset by my extra weight. I don't think these kids weighed more than 60kg (I am somewhere around 70kg right now).
One of the cyclists already has a contract with an Italian team for 2012 (Giant Italy). He also finished top-10 in several World Cup races in Europe earlier this year (junior category, I presume). Who knows where these kids might be in 10 years from now.
Obviously, the pictures below are taken from the back of the peloton.