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.