Home to four million people. The second-largest city in the United States. Infamous traffic. An…
Medellín bursts with beauty all year round. We spent a week exploring the Antioquia region before the race
Looking out from the hotel restaurant, lush green mountains are the only horizon. The palette of foliage deceives the mind that the hotel is at 6,500 feet above sea level, tucked away high in the mountains. Peacocks roam freely around the hotel grounds, flaunting their plumage as if attempting to steal your gaze away from the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Alex Howes describes it perfectly. “It’s just vista after vista after vista, it’s very green. A lot of fruit farms too. It’s a delicious country.”
Each morning clouds drape themselves over the mountain peaks, synchronizing with the cloudiness felt by the brain as it acclimatizes to the altitude. After a couple days the body begins to recalibrate, efforts don’t feel quite so draining. The ripple effect of mountain, valley, mountain, valley still bites with the effort of cycling along it, but the body starts to strengthen and fight back.
This is Colombia, this is riding around the cycling mecca that is Antioquia.
Two thousand feet above Colombia’s second largest city, Medellín, there’s a constant stream of cyclists riding along. Climbs such as Santa Elena, La Ceja and La Unión are just a few explored by Tour Colombia 2.1, during the six day stage race. People think it’s necessary to have a moto driver accompany you out along the roads, which it isn’t. Although there is heavy traffic on some roads the drivers are respectful and willing to share.
At the top of climbs, such as La Unión, people selling juices are a staple presence, willing you to indulge yourself into fresh fruit juice goodness.
“I think that’s what I noticed, is that it just smells really great, because there are flowers that are blooming at all times and there is fruit everywhere,” Taylor Phinney says.
The twisting eight mile (14km) descent takes us from the Movich hotel at the top of Alto las Palmas into Medellín, which rests at 4,905 ft (1,495m) above sea level. Whilst descending, panoramic views draw your eyes down to the 146 sq mi city sprawl nestled into the valley floor.
Peace and quiet are abandoned way above in the clouds, as the energy of the city with its 2.5 million inhabitants moves you along like a current. Known as the city of eternal spring, Medellín blooms with color, constant chatter, and kindness.
The night has a vibrance to it, with neighbourhoods that are made up of people laughing and smiling along the street. The local bars and restaurants provide the nectar. El Poblado district has the ability to take hours away from you as if they were seconds; before the call of a taxi drags you away. But don’t worry, the people you meet will assure you, you’ll be back.
An outing to Guatapé draws you to water, lakes made for fun, whether it be by boat, jet ski or diving into them. A peaceful place that is willing to test the daredevil inside.
“Let’s face it, jet skis are made for no other purpose than just to have fun,” says Howes.
The next day, walking into the Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellín for the race team presentation, lurches us out of serenity and submerges us into a beautiful chaos of screaming and cheering fans. Its warm embrace pulls you in so tightly you feel like you never want it to let you go.
“I feel like a football player, normally in cycling we don’t have something like this. Normally you have a lot of people but not all in one stadium, you don’t hear all the noise at the same time,” says our sports director, Juanma Garate. The atmosphere is electric, hairs stand on end, and adrenaline pumps. When it comes to cycling fans the Colombians set the bar high.