Monday, December 19, 2011

The Importance of Good Hair

It was all about the hair. No doubt. In the old days, sponsors wanted their cyclists to look good, on and off the bike. 

Louis Bobet

Hugo Koblet, below, was known for carrying a comb in his jersey pocket. Just prior to the finish line, he would comb his hair to look good for the girls and the cameras.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ciclovia Medellin

Medellin is one of several Latin American cities that hosts a weekly Ciclovia. Every Sunday from 9am to 1pm, Medellin closes 30km of main roads to vehicles. The roads are dedicated to cycling and other forms of recreational use, including walking, jogging, and rollerblading. 

Ciclovia Medellin began in 1989. Back then, only a few kilometers were allocated by the city; all on the city outskirts. Now, Ciclovia runs along the river and through the city center and upscale neighborhoods of Poblado and Envigado. Its the equivalent of shutting down Auckland's Queen St and Tamaki Drive, or, Boston's Newbury St, Storrow Drive and Atlantic Avenue.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Grand Snail of the Velodrome

Medellin hosted 3 nights of track racing at the Martin Rodriguez ('Cochise') velodrome in Estadio, Medellin. The event is named Gran Caracol de Pista, which translates to The Grand Snail of the Track (I don't know why its called this, except the lead sponsor is a media company named Caracol). The Grand Snail was held one week after the World Cup in Cali (in southern Colombia), so many athletes from around the world were still here to participate. The biggest 'estrella' was Maximilian Levy of Germany. Other countries included France, Switzerland, Poland, and Malaysia along with most of Latin America.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What Makes Colombian Cycling So Unique? Part V

During my first two weeks here, I rode into the mountains on the other side of Medellin. A few days later, a Colombian friend asked about my route across the city. I didn't realize at the time, but I had chosen a road that borders the neighborhood of San Javier. When you think of Medellin as the murder capital of the world (which it was in the 1980s and 1990s), you shouldn't think of Medellin. You should think of San Javier.

This post is about Medellin's violent past. Its not directly related to cycling, but its important that visting cyclists, or any tourist for that matter, be aware of the neighborhoods they enter. A Garmin device or wrong turn can easily route you through one Medellin's dangerous barrios.

Medellin has long been a violent city. In the 1980s, Pablo Escobar's Medellin drug cartel fought an urban war to control the city. They eliminated competing cartels, bribed government officials, and offered rewards for the killing of police officers. Escobar himself was killed by the Colombian government in 1993 after a year-long manhunt. At its peak in 1991, Medellin's murder rate stood at 381 murders per 100,000 people. And the absolute number for the year: 6,500. (The UN's marker for an 'epidemic' murder rate is 10 per 100,000).  

Monday, December 5, 2011

What Makes Colombian Cycling So Unique? Part IV

Carry a rain jacket when cycling in Medellin. I learned my lesson shortly after arriving in October. 

Medellin is known as 'La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera' or 'City of Eternal Spring.' The average temperature here of 22C (72F) remains constant throughout the year with only minimal variations (Colombia sits just above the equator). But it can be very wet here. Medellin's tropical rainforest climate averages 224 rain days per year. The months with the highest number of rain days are April and May, as well as September, October, and November (see chart below). 

Source: Instituto de Hidrologia Meteorologia y Estudios Ambientales.

However, my Colombian cycling friends tell me that rainfall in the last couple of years has been much higher than normal. They attribute this to El Nino, with Medellin experiencing unusually high rainfall every 4-5 years. In late 2010, dozens of people living on the slopes of Medellin were buried by mudslides.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Colombian Wedding and Cycling

My friend, Camila, invited me to a Colombian wedding. Her high-school friend, Paula, married Alejandro in Medellin last night. I wouldn't normally post about weddings, but a fairly serious Trek Madone and Pinarello riding cyclist was sitting at our table. We spent at least 15 minutes discussing routes, hardware, and VAM, so I guess the wedding now qualifies for my blog.