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!

At 2800 meters on Col de la Bonette in June. Europe's highest paved mountain pass.

Climbing Col du Galibier in August at around 2200 meters.

Col du Galibier at 2645 meters. 

Colombia is different. Its green, no matter where you go. I rode to an altitude of 3,704 meters last week (click here for my Alto de Letras post), and it was still green. The next day, we visited the slopes of Nevada del Ruiz, Colombia's highest point. Green started to disappear at around 4200 meters. At 4,800 meters it was like Galibier/Bonette.

Secondly, the mountain slopes here in Colombia are far more gentle than in Europe. Very few roads follow a cliff-edge. (Montebello is the only example I can think of). If you had the misfortune of missing a turn on a Colombian descent, you'd likely find yourself rolling through grass down a relatively moderate slope. I think you would probably find it a somewhat soft landing. On the other hand, overshooting a bend in Europe would be deadly. 

Approaching the summit of Letras at 3,704 meters. Colombia is still green at such a high altitude.

Moderate slopes on Alto de Minas. Colombia doesn't have cliff-edge roads like Europe.

Italy's Gavia Pass above and below. Note: narrow road, steep slopes, and lack of safety barrier (just a piece of white string in picture below).

Standing at 4,800 meters on Nevada del Ruiz. The point in the background is 5,100 meters.

Click on the following links to read more about cycling in Colombia: Colombians and Road Surfaces, Food and Diet, Support Vehicles, Weather, and Medellin's History.

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