The last discipline in a triathlon that I did not touch upon in my previous blog is cycling. Just like with the other ones I did a bunch of research prior to coming, but unlike the other ones, I did not have the most important piece of equipment to partake in the sport. I brought a helmet, cycling shoes, lights and some gels. One particular bike shop, Villalbike, has their WhatsApp number on the website so I reached out since the site stated they rent out performance road bikes. It turned out they charge (July 2022) 90,000 Colombian pesos or about 20 USD per day if you rent their bike for 5 days or more. Of course if you request for less days the daily rate is higher. They sent over some pictures too of an entry level Scott bike that looked good enough for 7 days of riding that I had planned.
I must also add that I had to pay a $4,000,000 COP or about $800 USD security deposit in case something obviously happened to the bike. This was my first time renting a bike so I was a bit surprised as that is a hefty charge to have on my credit card, but a few people I spoked to told me that it is normal and the deposit depends on the worth of the bike.
Now that I had all the basic necessary equipment to do some riding I next had to figure where to go. I quickly realized that there is absolutely no shortage of different rides one can do in Medellin and its surrounding areas. A lot of professional train in this area and there overall a great cycling culture here. Colombians love this sport.
The most popular ride to do is hands down the climb up Alto de las Palmas starting from San Diego. It is about 16km of climbing with an average percentage a little bit below 7. This climb has actually been featured in the Vuelta de Colombia as a category 1 so I was very excited to get some climbing in as in Miami there is not a single hill in sight.
For 5 days straight I woke early every morning and set out to climb Las Palmas before starting my work day. The first couple days I did not make it to the top because it never seemed to end and I was not sure if I would make it back to work on time or not. However, from the third day onwards I always went to the top. The length of the ride was about 45km and it took me about 2:20 hours. It was certainly a bit tricky to get to the bottom of the hill from where I was staying at in Laureles as I had to basically cross through town which included a lot of morning traffic and even riding on the highway for a small stretch. From home to the bottom of the hill was about 5km, but it felt much longer. I felt relieved every time I made it back home.
Once at the hill there are a lot of cyclists and also a cycling lane so from that point on I felt safe.
After the fifth straight day of cycling I decided to take a day off from cycling because my body was definitely not used to so many days of consecutive cycling let alone climbing a challenging and long hill in each of those rides. Descending felt like a challenge too for different reasons because I was absolutely freezing. I had never descended any lengthy hills in my life and I was totally not prepared for that. Riding up, sweat drops left and right. Riding down I was considering turning back up to get some heat in my body.
Two days before I had to give the bike back a guy on the elevator in the apartment complex where I stayed complemented my bike. Coincidentally the next evening we crossed paths again and he asked if I wanted to join his group ride the next day which was Saturday. To do that I would have to extend my rental period of the bike, but meeting new people was one of my goals for coming to Medellin and if I could meet a group of cyclists that would be even better. So I messaged the bike shops to request an extension through the weekend and return it on Monday and they approved.
I woke up early that next day to get ready for the group ride, but I could already hear from my bed that it was raining cats and dogs outside. After waiting for an hour or so Jaime decided to try our luck the next day. It was a bummer because I was really looking forward to it, but at least we still had Sunday to go at it.
The next day was cloudy, but at least it was not raining. We met up with a few other guys by the stadium and another guy on our way out of Medellin. This was my first ride that was different from the same one I had been doing day in and day out up Alto Las Palmas.
I am not someone that needs others to get motivated and go out for rides, but it is certainly much more fun when you have cool people around you. The first 30km or so were flat and on a road I was told leads you all the way to Cartagena. A very famous beach town among Colombians and tourists from all over the world. Eventually we took an exit and climbed up another beautiful mountain. Myself and of the guys took off and then we all reconvened at the top for what I thought would be a light breakfast, but ended up being quite a heavy one with chorizo, eggs, buñuelos, little arepas, and a hot chocolate.
I left the place satisfied but also stuffed and glad we were not about to climb another mountain because I certainly was going to throw it all up. We did make one more stop as we were entering Medellin at a street vendor that sold only fresh sugar cane juice. I have had it once before at a different location, but this one was hands down the best. Nice and sweet, but also a great taste.
When I got back home I felt finished. It was a total of 90km and that was the most I had ever done. By ever I mean in the last two months since I had bought my bike. Again it was great to see lots of cyclists on the road and there were several pelotons with at least 50 people each that passed us.
In Medellin like in many other cities in Colombia, they will shut down certain streets every Sunday so that families and athletes of all levels can enjoy more space to be out and exercise. This is a great benefit that the government provides to its citizens and one that I wish we saw more in western countries.
Overall, Medellin has a great sports culture and it is a great place to do a triathlon training camp.