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.

The races were very exciting. The format included:
  • Keirin: cyclists are paced by a motorbike. The motorbike slowly increases its speed from 25kph to 50kph and then leaves the track to let the cyclists race the final four laps
  • Traditional 3-lap sprint
  • Elimination: 20 cyclists begin the race and every second lap is a sprint to the finish line. Last person across the line is eliminated
  • The very last race was 40 laps (10km). Santiago Botero won, and Rigoberto Uran (of Team Sky) was third

The overall men's winner for the 3-day tournament was Juan Estaban Arango. He won two golds at the World Cup in Cali last week, and another two golds at the Pan American Games in Mexico in October. 

I didn't realize European soccer was so important here, but Saturday's racing was constantly interrupted by the velodrome commentator providing real-time updates of the FC Barcelona - Real Madrid futbol match. 

The velodrome is named after Colombian cyclist, Martin Rodriguez ('Cochise'). He won the Vuelta a Colombia four times in the 1960s, two stages of the Giro d'Italia in the 1970s, and broke the hour record in 1970.

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