IS COLOMBIA A FACTORY OF SUPER CYCLISTS?
For the followers of sports, it is easy to say that some nations come from better athletes. According to the type of activity, this is easier to understand with this simple example: When we think of soccer players, it is totally normal that we will relate them to countries like Brazil, Argentina, France, Italy or England. The same applies to almost all sports because if we think of baseball we will think of Caribbean countries or the United States, as with long-distance athletics we will surely think immediately of African athletes.
If we take this approach to Cycling, we could say that the Colombian road cyclists are like the Brazilians or the Argentines are for Soccer. The importance of Colombian cyclists is reflected in the dominance that Colombia has had in the classification of the American Continent.
From 2010 to 2018, Colombia occupied the first place position in the cycling ladder of the continent, with the exception of 2014 when they occupied second place.
The power of the Colombian cyclists in the American continent is reflected in competing and winning races from the extreme south in the most prestigious race of Argentina - the San Juan tour of 2019 (in which Winner Anacona, a Colombian cyclist, won the race and 3 of the 7 stages were won by Colombian cyclists), traveling much further north in the tour of California (in 2018, the winner was also a Colombian, Egan Bernal, the cyclist of the ultra-powerful team Sky. In this race, the performance of Colombian cyclists was great where they won 5 of the 7 stages.
This is a small sample of what Colombian cyclists do in America, but really, the great competitions are held in Europe. It is there where Colombian cyclists have managed to shine for more than three decades. In the last 30 years, the list of Colombian names that have managed to stand out in Europe has been extensive. Especially in the last 7 years. In the World Tour, the highest category of professional road cycling has presented an explosion of triumphs for Colombians cyclists. Below are some of the most important triumphs of recent years.
• Nairo Quintana, champion of Giro de Italia 2014, Champion of the Vuelta España in 2016, Champion Tour Romandy 2016, Champion Volta a Catalonia 2016, Tyrrhenian Adriatic 2017 champion.
• Rigoberto Uran, Silver Medal in the 2012 Olympic Road Race, Twice Second place in the Giro d'Italia 2013, 2014. Sub-champion of the Tour de France 2017.
• Esteban Chaves: Champion of the Giro di Lombardia 2016, winner of two stages in the Vuelta España 2015, Second place in the Giro de Italia 2016, third in the Vuelta España 2016, winner of two stages in the Giro d'Italia.
• Miguel Angel Lopez: Champion of the tour of Switzerland 2016, third in the Vuelta España 2018, third in the Giro de Italia 2018, champion of the Vuelta a Catalunya 2019.
These are just some of the names of Colombian cyclists who have shone in recent years in Europe. However, the truth is that every year there is one or more Colombian cyclist who offers a show, as is the case of Colombian cyclist Egan Bernal. In only one year he has become one of 3 captains of the most powerful team in international cycling, the Sky team, winning the 2018 tour of California and in 2019, the Paris Nice.
But what is the secret of the success of Colombian cyclists?????
Their extraordinary performance can be explained in these 4 points:
1.The altitude of the main cities (advantages of height training for cyclists)
The principal cities of Colombia are at a considerable altitude. The capital, Bogota, for example, is located at 2600 masl, Medellin 1495 masl and Cali 1018 masl. When compared with the biggest European cities, of which almost all are in coastal areas or close to large rivers, we could say that the most important European city and of greater height it is Madrid at 667 masl . Colombian cyclists are used to high altitudes why they can tell all about the benefits of training at high altitudes such as potentiating and optimizing the use oxigen during competitions
Many European cyclists spend a couple of weeks a year doing this type of training in some very specific places like the Canary Islands, whereas Colombians are born and raised at these altitudes.
2. An ideal climate for cycling all year round
Colombia is located near the equator and therefore, does not have large weather variations throughout the year; the climate in Colombia is divided into two seasons, dry season and rainy season. It may sound very unpleasant to ride a bicycle during a period called the rainy season, but really this time of year in the mountainous areas of Colombia can be very similar to spring in Europe or the United States. It is a season in which there are showers (but not strictly every day) and in which if you have a basic tool for any cyclist, such as a waterproof jacket, you won’t have any problems because the temperature never drops too low in Colombia either. The most important variable on which the temperature depends in Colombia is the altitude and if we bring the example of one of the coldest and toughest roads for cyclists, next to the volcano Nevado del Ruiz located at 4000 meters above sea level, where you can pedal all year round in the that in the coldest days the thermometer can descend to 4 degrees, riding a bicycle in Europe at this height during the summer is impossible which could only be accessed by true mountaineers.
In short, professional or amateur Colombian cyclists have the ideal scenario to keep riding at any time of the year.
3. Geography of the country
Colombia is a country crossed by the Andes, the longest mountain range in the world. The Andes cross Colombia dividing into three mountain ranges that go from the south nearly to the Caribbean coast. Large parts of the population of Colombia lives in these mountains in cities such as Bogotá, Medellín, Bucaramanga, and Tunja, and are totally used to living at high altitude.
And it is that in Colombia, when you go out on your bicycle it not simply to ride down or climb hills, you really face huge mountains.
To give you an idea of what it means to ride a bicycle in this country, we will compare two of the most famous mountain passes in Europe with two in Colombia.
European mountain passes:
* The ultra-famous and mythical ALPE D'HUEZ starting in Bourg d'Oisans has a length of 13.2 km with an accumulated ascent of 1,108 meters ending at a height of 1850 meters.
* Passo Dello Stelvio starting in Prato, the most difficult ascent of Italy has a length of 24.3km with an accumulated ascent of 1808 meters ending at 2758 meters above sea level.
Colombian mountain passes:
El Alto de Letras with a length of 81.7km has an accumulated ascent of 4571 meters and ends at 3678 meters above sea level.
Alto del Verjon (very close to the capital, Bogota) starting from Choachi, has a length of 23.7 km and an accumulated ascent of 1670 meters above sea level, ending at 3381 meters above sea level.
In terms of difficulty, Colombia has nothing to envy of any other country. The coffee country is an amusement park for cyclists looking for challenging climbs.
4. National feeling for cycling
Colombia, a developing nation, has a special enthusiasm for the bicycle. Proof of this can be found in Bogota, which has the largest number of kilometers of cycle routes in South America, and hosts an event called Ciclovia that takes place every Sunday.. in which it closes the traffic of cars only allowing the use of bicycles, walkers or runners during the 7 am to 2 pm of 140 km of streets. This started in 1976 in Bogotá but has already been copied in several cities in Colombia. Experiencing the Ciclovia is where the great connection that this country has with cycling is most evident.
With all this we can now answer the question with which we started, is Colombia a factory of world-class cyclists? The answer is Yes, Colombia is a country that has privileged conditions so that every year a Colombian cyclist will be a protagonist in the most important cycling races. And if you do not believe us, we invite you to experience cycling in the land of Colombian beetles.