Cycling in Medellin: Pros and Yours Truly

“Para sufrir sobre la bicicleta es algo buienisimo.”  Or: “To suffer on the bike is something wonderful.”  This is a quote from my Facebook page the day before I went riding with Daniel Vasquez and his U23 professional friends.  Hence, the night before the ride I was preparing to suffer.  The planned, Las Palmas, is a famous climb for cycling in Medellin on a road that goes straight from the city centre at 1481m to the top at 2528m.  This road is famous among cyclists here in Medellin.  Colombia’s most famous cyclist, Santiago Botero used to climb this road three times a day.  It might explain his success in the Tour de France where he accumulated three stage wins and a best cyclist in the mountains jersey in 2000.  He’s also one of only two men to ever beat Lance Armstrong in a time trial when Lance was winning all those Tours.  Ya, he’s that good.


Thankfully, before our excursion on the side of the mountain, my friends had a criterium race (high tempo, shortish race.)  I knew that even with this race these young pros would hand it to me on the mountain, but I was glad that they’d be using some of their juice up before we rode together.


It was a big field, with approximately 70 riders.  This is a lot of cyclists for a criterium.  The day’s race was an 1.5hr criterium around a 1.3km road.  An hour and a half long  criterium is extremely long.  Props to all the racers!

My friend Daniel finished with the front group after a grueling 1.5hrs.  Congrats to him!

Here’s Daniel taking off his number, while riding.  Ya, he rides a lot.  In fact, earlier in the day I was talking with Dennis, a friend and teammate of Daniel’s.  I asked Dennis how many kilometers they ride on an average week.  He told me “800km, up to 1000 during a big week.”  May sound doable to some of my cycling friends, a big number, but doable.  Take into account, however, that an “average” week, also includes about 12,000m – 15,000m of elevation gain.  Ya, “average.”


So we were off to climb Las Palmas.  I was as ready as an out-of-shape amateur cyclist on a 30lbs touring bike, cycling with professional 20 year-olds could be.  Let’s do this!  About 25 minutes into the climb I caught up to my friends (read: they were waiting as I crawled towards them.)  They asked me for something that I didn’t understand.  I offered them a tube.  This was not what they were looking for.  They showed me that one of my friend’s chain had broken.  I didn’t have a chain tool.  What’s the solution to this?  Like any good teammates they proceeded to push their friend up the hill.  This evened the playing field – a little.  Needless to say, they turned around at the next chance, and I was left to ride Las Palmas alone (not that I would have really been riding in a group with them anyways.)  This also left me with a tough decision.  Do I keep on climbing this crazy hill, in the hot sun like I had said I would on Facebook?  Or do I turn around and give my pounding legs a rest?


Let’s pause for this important message (and a breath.)  It says “To be important is from the ego.  To be happy is from the soul.”  Thanks billboard!

Here’s my bike under the sign signifying the top of the climb.  Proof that I rode this badass.  Now it was time to descend!  I averaged about 65km/hr on the descent, passing many buses and cars.  I eventually was spit out at the bottom in the hustle and bustle of Medellin.  It was an interesting 5kms or so home, weaving through traffic and traffic circles.  I had an amazing day on the bike!  I love cycling communities, wherever they are in the world!  I look forward to our next ride.  Until then . . .


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