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.