Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Race Calendar: 2013 Summer Season

These are the five races on my race calendar for the 2013 summer season:

  • SRAM Tour de Ranges, 110km, January 19
  • Around Mt Taranaki, 150km, January 26
  • The Rev, 142km, February 23
  • Tour of Northland, 4 stages, 340km, March 14-17
  • Taupo to Rotorua, 100km, April 6

In addition to the races above, several Auckland clubs host regular weekend races. Unfortunately, there are not as many road races near Auckland as I hoped. I would need to travel to Wellington or the South Island to add more races. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Strava KOM Targets: Summer 2013

The following Strava segments are my targets for this summer (including current ranking and time):

  • Wright Road: 5th place (of 129); 7.39 mins
  • Sunnyside Climb: 9th place (of 152); 5.07 mins
  • Albany Hill: 16th place (of 219); 6.39 mins
  • Helensville Climb: 29th (of 175); 12.39 mins
  • Scenic Drive: 50th place (of 198); 31.24 mins

I am also adding a Tamaki Drive time-trial from Mechanics Bay to Mission Bay. I ride the 4.7km at threshold, soft-pedal for 10 minutes, and then ride the return leg to Mechanics Bay, again at threshold. The course is 9.4km in total and I use this as my performance indicator. I rode the TT in June as I thought it would be useful to measure my off-season baseline. I completed the two legs in 14mins and 7secs, averaged 40.0kph, and averaged a heart rate of 180bpm. Strava calculated my average power at 296 watts. Now that we are approaching the racing season, I'll likely ride the TT monthly.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Strava Multiple Ride Mapper

I found a Strava app that displays multiple rides on one map. It can be found here. Below are some screen-shots of my rides in France, Spain, Italy, Buenos Aires and northwest Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Turkey, Auckland, and Boston.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Available Now: Switchback Cycling Team 2013 Kit

Switchback Cycling Team's 2013 kit is now available. The designs are below (jersey, bib shorts, vest, cap, socks, arm/knee/leg warmers, etc). Orders must be placed by December 14, 2012. Delivery will be February. Please email me to request an order form at: duncangross - at symbol - gmail dot com. (Or just leave a comment below with your email address).

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Colombian Arepas de Chocolo in Auckland

After six months back in Auckland, we finally found Arepas de Chocolo. These are a Colombian staple and can be found in every home, restaurant, cafe, convenience store, and supermercado.

Arepas de Chocolo are especially good for cyclists as they are 84% carbohydrate and just 17% sugar. You can read my original post about Colombian food and arepas here (published in October 2011). 

We cooked up several arepas this morning and they were pretty close to the real thing. We are missing quesito but either cottage cheese or feta is a decent substitute.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Switchback Cycling Team: draft kit designs

Below is a draft design for Switchback Cycling Team's 2013 kit. This is only a draft version, so there will likely be modifications before we determine the final design. The kit includes: jersey, vest, bib shorts, cap, arm warmers, gloves, and socks. The colors are black, white, and red.

And below are four alternate jersey designs. Please leave a comment to indicate your preferences.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Press Release: Switchback Cycling Team

Auckland, NEW ZEALAND, September 20, 2012: Switchback Cycling Team announced it is currently designing its 2013 team kit and technical clothing. SCT expects an end-of-2012 design release accompanied by order forms. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Foto del Dia: Federico Ezquerra - 1934 TDF

Basque cyclist Federico Ezquerra escapes from the Peloton and is the first to cross Col du Galibier. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rotorua - Whakatane - Mt. Manganui

Just back from 3 days of cycling. Camila and I took a trip over Queen's Birthday weekend (a 3-day weekend in NZ) to the central North Island and the Bay of Plenty. We went with my old high-school friend, Evan Seber, and his girlfriend, Emma. 

Evan is a former NZ high-schools Triathlon champion from the late-80s. Like me, he is trying to regain his fitness. Evan and I did a lot of cycling, while the girls shopped and sipped cappuccinos.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Photo of the Day: Albert Bourlon - 1947 TDF

Albert Bourlon won stage 14 of the 1947 Tour de France. He broke from the peloton just minutes after the start, and then rode solo for 253km. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Crown Range Switchbacks

Seven certified Euro-style switchbacks on Crown Range road in Otago, New Zealand. 

Camila and I drove from Queenstown to Wanaka today via the Crown Range. The road starts at 400 meters elevation and quickly gains 200 meters through the switchbacks. It then levels off for 1-2km before heading up to the pass at 1,076 meters. This is one of the highest paved roads in New Zealand (the access roads to Coronet Peak and The Remarkables ski-fields are higher).

I'll be back later with my bicycle. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bucket List: Ticlio Pass, Peru

Good news and bad news. The good news is that I found a massive 4,818 meter climb. The bad news is that Alto de Letras (which I climbed in February) is not in fact the world's biggest mountain pass.

X-axis = kilometers. Y-axis = meters.

Ticlio Pass (also known as Anticona) is located approximately 150km northeast of Lima, Peru. Starting at sea level in Lima, the road climbs at a gentle 3.5% average gradient all the way to 4,818 meters. The final 50km average 5%. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mas Fotos Retro

I found another stack of old photos this week, all cycling and triathlon related. 

Left to right: Raymond Webb (now based in San Diego) in his prime, Willy Patterson, and Craig Duffy. Auckland, January 1992. NB: Oakley Razors.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Retro-cool SANS Cool

Many people consider Rapha to be a Retro-cool cycling brand. I found an old stack of photos at my parents' house in Auckland this week. The photos (below) are retro, but they're certainly not cool.  I am probably compromising myself by uploading these pictures, but most of us looked this silly back in 1989. God Bless Oakley Factory Pilots!

Training for my first race. Winter 1989.

Friday, March 30, 2012


I arrived back in Auckland on Tuesday. This is my first visit to New Zealand in 4 years, and the last time I cycled here was 1993 (on an old steel Avanti frame). I assembled my Ridley on Tuesday afternoon because I had plans to meet The Colombian Sensation, Alejandro Jimenez, on Wednesday.

Alejandro and his wife, Lina, are Colombians who spent the last 2 years living in Melbourne. I know many of their friends in Medellin, and it was Alejandro who initially gave me a lot of information about cycling in Colombia when I began researching my trip in 2010. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I am back in Boston for several weeks, packing and getting ready to fly to Auckland on March 25th. I had a two-week break from cycling: Boston's winter temperatures forced a week of rest, which I didn't mind, and the prior week was spent wrapping up in Medellin. 

Spring is approaching and Boston has been relatively warm over the last week, but the ground is still bare from the winter. Cyclists are training outside now and preparing for the upcoming racing season. I met up with my friend Dave Andersen, for several rides, as well as Jason Barella, Randall Levere, and Jason Hancock. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cycling Routes, Apres-Velo Activities, and Documentaries for Cyclists Visiting Medellin

I spent the last 5 months riding in Medellin, Antioquia, and Colombia. Here are the best routes all in one place, along with other information for enjoying Medellin. Email me if you have questions. (Click on the rides below for the Garmin data).

Epic Rides

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Interview with Juan David Cano: Colombia's Colnago Distributor

Juan David Cano owns and operates Diez Equis, S.A., a Medellin-headquartered importer of Colnago bicycles in Colombia. Colnago is an Italian manufacturer of high-end road bicycles. Founded in Milan in 1954, Colnago has sponsored at least one professional cycling team every year since 1974.

Colnagos in formation on Las Palmas.

As soon as I arrived in Colombia, I noticed that Colnago was one of the most popular brands in Medellin. I assumed that Colnago was long established here. But, a couple of weeks later, I met Juan David Cano on a group sufferfest. It turned out that he had only been importing Colnago for 18 months, after he negotiated exclusive distribution rights for the Colombian market. Juan David talks to Switchback Publications about his Colnago business, and the business of cycling in Colombia.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Las Palmas Time Trial

I time-trialled Las Palmas yesterday. Palmas is the standard by which serious Medellin cyclists are judged. My result of 46 minutes and 24 seconds was.... mediocre (996 VAM).

Las Palmas climbs 771 meters over 11.2km. It traverses Medellin's eastern slopes on the way to the airport and Bogota. Palmas is packed with cyclists early in the morning, especially on weekdays.

Friends of mine TT'd in 43 minutes. Last October, I TT'd Palmas in 46 minutes 53 seconds early in a 178km ride to El Penol and back. I only gave Palmas about 80-90% effort on that day and felt fine during the remaining 150+ km.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Makes Colombian Cycling So Unique? Part VI

This post is the sixth installment on Colombian cycling and its unique attributes. The topic today is Colombia's terrain. 

Europe's Alps, Dolomites, and Pyrenees protrude from the earth. They launch themselves skyward with sharp, jagged rock and vertical cliffs. Once you're above 2,000 meters, the landscape is closer to a moonscape. I saw plenty of snow on Col de la Bonnette in June. I even saw people skiing on Stelvio in August!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Just a short post today. We spent the night in Pintada after an 8 hour drive from Cali. It was late afternoon by the time we reached Pintada, and it wasn't safe to cross the mountains at night on the way to Medellin. So, I took advantage of the opportunity today and rode up to Jerico. Several friends in Medellin had suggested the 22km climb over the past few months. Jerico is noted for its mid-teen gradients.  

The climb is very enjoyable. The road is quiet with very little traffic. I wasn't sure what to expect at the top, but the town of Jerico is quite impressive. Its an old colonial town with a lot of color.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cali Velodrome

We drove to Cali this morning. Cali is Colombia's 3rd largest city and is located in the southwest, approximately 100km from the Pacific.

I was interested in visting Cali's velodrome; the Velódromo Alcides Nieto Patiño. Cali has hosted the World Cup eleven times since 1996. The most recent World Cup meet in Cali was held in December 2011. The next World Cup in Cali will be in 2014. (Many of the World Cup athletes raced in Medellin one week after the December 2011 World Cup. I wrote about it here).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

La Linea

Wow, La Linea was a struggle today. Altimetrias de Colombia describes La Linea as Colombia's Stelvio Pass, but it felt more like Col de Joux Plane, Col du Glandon, or Port de Bales. It was really tough.

La Linea is known as Colombia's "second most mythical climb." It is a 21km climb rising 1,706 vertical meters to reach the summit at 3,275 meters. The first half wasn't too hard. I took it easy for the first few kilometers to gauge how I was feeling 3 days post-Letras. Up until around the 10th kilometer, I was feeling strong so I pushed hard. But then the gradient changed. Most of the second half had gradients of 9%-11%. I started to crumble and struggled through the second half. I finished in 1 hour and 50 minutes with a VAM of 932 (1706 meters/1.83). I was pretty happy with that result considering my form.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Live from Calarca

Well, I had not planned on riding La Linea this week, but it turns out that our hotel tonight in Calarca is just 2km from the foot of this legendary climb. Colombian ciclistas describe La Linea as Colombia's "second most mythical climb" after Letras. It is imposible for me to ignore this opportunity. We had planned a river rafting trip for tomorrow (click here for pictures), but common sense prevailed, so instead I'll subject myself to several hours of pain and suffering in the Andes. 

La Linea is a mountain pass between Calarca and Ibague approximately 100km south of Letras and also in the Los Nevados National Park. The more famous route over Alto de La Linea is from the west side, starting in Calarca. The climb is 22km and rises 1650 meters to an altitude of 3265 meters. I should complete the climb in about 2 hours. Depending on how I feel, and the weather, I'll descend to Ibague for the return trip. Climbing from east to west is a 1400 meter elevation gain over 23km. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Letras 3704

I made it! Letras is the biggest mountain pass on this planet (by altitude gain), and Colombia's "most mythical climb." It was an awesome ride. I was pretty buggered by the last 500 meters, but at that point, who cares?! The altitude never seemed to directly affect me. A slight headache set in somewhere around the 3,000 meter point, but I am not sure if that was because of the thin air or something else.

The climb was really great. 80km is a long way, and we went through a dozen or so small towns/villages. We had plenty of sun at the start (730am) and for most of the day. There was a thick layer of cloud between ~2800 meters and 3400 meters. I could see the cloud for quite a while before we entered it, and I was worried that it would be rain. Luckily, it was dry all day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Live from Mariquita

I just arrived in Mariquita after a 6-hour drive from Medellin. We're at 500 meters altitude so its much hotter down here (approx 35-38 degrees celsius) than up in Medellin.  I was expecting to see Letras looming over this small town, but it is out of sight.

I am nervous about my form for tomorrow. Lets say that my fitness for 'epic riding' was a '10' last August when I spent 9 days in the Pyrenees with Dave Andersen. After my 4-week break over the holidays, I was hoping to be a '7' by now. But in reality, I am more like a '4'. I had some good training rides, but it didn't quite 'come-together' for me. On the other hand, my weight is reasonable: 71kgs (157lbs). I was generally able to avoid ice-cream and empanadas over the last 3 weeks, except for the Super Bowl. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Descent into Medellin

Las Palmas is probably the best climb out of Medellin. It travels towards the east, gaining 976 meters over 16km. This is a 12 minute video of the descent back down into Medellin. The starting elevation is 2,500 meters and ends at 1,530 meters. (A few raindrops cloud the lens in the last minute or so).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Just a few pictures below of yesterday's medium-length ride (105km) to Titiribi. This small town is southwest of Medellin. There is nothing special about the Titiribi, but the ride from Medellin is quite nice with a couple of decent climbs. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

San Jeronimo II

As I mentioned in yesterday's post regarding Letras, I planned to ride to San Jeronimo in the next couple of weeks. Well, I rode to San Jeronimo today and got my 2,900 meters of climbing. 

The route to SJ is much easier than the return. Essentially, you have  900 meter climb from Medellin to Alto de Boqueron followed by a 30km descent to the small town of SJ. You drop from 2500 meters to 750 meters over the 30km. Once you reach SJ, you've covered half of the distance but, in terms of climbing, you've done less than one third of the actual work. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Letras Training Plan

I am planning to climb Letras in the third week of February. Alto de Letras is the world's biggest mountain pass (by elevation gain) that I am aware of. Letras has a total elevation gain of 3,187 meters. The climb starts at an altitude of ~600 meters in the town of Mariquita and ends at an altitude of 3,677 meters. (Five small descents account for the difference between gross and net elevation gain).  

Source: Altimetrias de Colombia

I mentioned above that Letras is the biggest mountain pass I know of. The volcano of Mauna Kea in Hawaii is bigger - it offers 4,203 meters of elevation gain. But, Mauna Kea is not a mountain pass. And, nothing in Europe comes close to Letras. The biggest climbs I found in Europe were Gavia and Stelvio in the Dolomites, with almost 2,000 meters of elevation gain. The mountain passes in northern India and Chile are at higher altitudes (almost 5,000 meters) but the climbs (as measured from the nearby valleys) are only 2,000 meters or so. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Disappearing Watch

Watches were common on a cyclist's wrist for much of the 20th century. A stage winner wanted to know the time gaps over his opponents, but more likely, were provided by publicity-hungry sponsors. 

Watches first appeared in the 1950s but their popularity seemed to fade during the 1980s and 1990s. They could be seen on the rare occasion worn by Fignon in 1992 and Ullrich in 1997. The watch was barely seen again until Lance wore one in the 2004 TDF.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is Cocaine a Performance Enhancing Drug?

Well, I am in Colombia (still) and cycling (barely - I took a month off and now I am suffering mightily). Several years ago I read an article on the Internet discussing the use of cocaine and performance enhancing drugs in professional cycling. Since Colombia is the world's leading supplier of cocaine, I thought I would do some research. 

Before we get into the results of several scientific studies, here is a brief history of performance enhancing drugs in professional cycling: 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Weekend at the Finca

A 'Finca' is a country farm. My friend, Mauricio, invited me to his family's finca for the weekend, along with his wife, Tatiana, and Camila. The finca is located in an area south of Medellin that is perfect for cycling. We rode Saturday (to Marsella) and Sunday (to Valparaiso). For both of us, it was our first rides after the holiday break. We weren't feeling too strong, but we still managed a couple of 1,000 meter climbs. 

The best part about the Finca was the fact that we were far from Medellin. The roads were quiet and the scenery was spectacular. The rides were not long, by any measure, but we logged some decent kilometers for January. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Matasanos (Climb to Don Matias)

I finally kicked off the 2012 season this week. Wednesday was an easy ride up Las Palmas, but today I climbed Matasanos with Gustavo Duncan of Altimetrias de Colombia.

The name, Duncan, is a coincidence. As you might guess, there are not many Duncans in Latin America. Gustavo told me that one of his ancestors was originally from the United Kingdom. Many UK'ers made their way to the Caribbean in the 1700s and 1800s. At some point, likely in the early 1800s, some of these immigrants traded weapons for land with Simon Bolivar. And thus, there are Latinos in Colombia and Venezuela today with fairly common Anglo names.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bring Back Oakley Factory Pilots

God Bless Factory Pilots. Sleek, functional, and intimidating.

Please leave a comment below if you will support a petition asking Oakley to reintroduce their 1988 Factory Pilot.