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THE GATEWAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, COLOMBIAN COFFEE REGION.

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THE GATEWAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, COLOMBIAN COFFEE REGION.

Human body was made to move, and is capable of amazing physical feats. If we just could free ourselves from our perceived limitations and take advantage of our inner fire, the possibilities are endless. The only way I knew how to succeed was to try harder than anyone else. Persistence is what has always guided my life.

The adventure started a Saturday night when two friends and I met to organize our mountain-bikes on the car´s rack; sometimes it´s very difficult, you don’t want your bike gets hurt, so for cyclists is very important to be careful with this specific task!

Next day, Sunday, I woke up at 5 a.m. to make breakfast and a taste cup of Colombian coffee, I was feeling a little bit tired, because I went to bed late, and I was thinking about what we were about to face, I don’t know what´s worse, if knowing the route previously or not, so. The sun woke up at 5:26 a.m. and I text my friends – ¿hey, are you ready? - while I was waiting for them. The event was planned to start at 7 a.m. and when they picked me up it was 6:15 a.m. I was worried and fed up because we had to go from Armenia to a beautiful town which was 50 kilometers far from us, and well my friends, we both know that is typical from our friends to be late always!

We went through the road, and this one was full of cars carrying bikes on, it´s in that moment that you think –We are a big family-.

The day was cold, even it started raining, and that makes you feel anxious when you don´t pack a waterproof jacket. There was a point in the flat road between Armenia and Caicedonia in which we had to turn left, and it´s like starting to climb Everest, I mean very steep. There was a High Climb to get the gateway to the mountains, the path to heaven in this case starred by Buenavista, a small town located in the Green Heart of Colombia “Quindío Department”. We were going on car, so you can imagine how difficult is to ride that tarmac road on a bike.

I want to highlight Buenavista is a spectacular town surrounded by stunning views, and nice colorful houses, the man or woman who decided call it with that name wasn't wrong.

When we were about to get into the town a small group of cyclist were climbing the final meters up, I guess they wanted to warm up and get into the marathon mood, cyclist are amazing people, they always salute and cheer you, I just remember a man riding a Fat Bike, I though he was showing his bike off, because that kind of bikes were designed to ride on desert or snow environments.

Quindío department is well known by the beauty of its towns, you can see every weekend too many tourist from other countries and locals, and Buenavista is not an exception. It was difficult to get a parking lot; the town was filled with cars, cyclist and spectators, we felt like in a Gran Vuelta arrival.

The event was organized by an Ice Cream Parlor called Heladería La 75, they say they are “the best in Quindío” and I completely agree. We made our register; they gave us water, banana, and a bracelet to claim for hydration during the route, lunch and raffles, all that FOR FREE, well not totally free, we had to pay 3.5k Colombian pesos to acquire a medical insurance, even it was very cheap.

It all began at 07:30 a.m. So we had to get ready once we parked; we were finding Buenavista’s main park and I saw way too many mountain-bikers crossing it, that moment was epic! I love cyclists!

I started Strava app (If I don’t turn it on I feel like I wouldn’t do anything) and the road was going up every pedal we stroked. It was very difficult to get warm pedaling on a mountain, but you have to breathe as much as you can and focus your mind for the battle against the road.

I was riding in a small peloton with my two adventure partners, Pipe & Moris, they are beginners in MTB, but they do great, I think I’ve helped them in the process to get involved into the MTB bike world. One day my grandfather told me “If you want to leave a legacy, you have to believe in someone and help to make their dreams come true”. I took it seriously!

The first kilometer was hard, but the stunning views surrounded the area paid off the effort. I tried to concentrate myself in pedaling to get my BPM high, when I realized my team mates weren´t close; a big gap was opened while I was trying to keep my pace up. I finished the first big “summit” and waited for them. I saw many tired faces, cyclist trying to catch as much O2 as they could, and we hadn’t ridden more than 3 K’S. I thought –this is going to be hard-.

They arrived, and the next step was to follow a downhill path, I advertised them –be careful, see you at the bottom-. I went full gas overtaking many riders, I felt like a DHI Pro; my arms started to hurt, so I decided to stop to rest while my friends arriving. That DHI was pretty extreme; nowadays most of the riders use hydraulic brakes, and many of them had to stop due to their brakes were overheating, even a route friend had to brake with his shoes. I was lucky, and my V-brakes pads ran pretty well, I loved my old 26”.

My friends and I enjoyed the second part, we took a new breath, we rested and we were happy to have recovered our energy.

The third part of the marathon was horrible, a steep climb on a pavement road, and it was filled of cyclist trying to push as hard as they could, I was using a ring bell, and that was a funny way to make them open a lane for me; after a 2 K’s of climbing up there was a hydration point, I decided not stopping because I was carrying more than 3 liters of water in my back and in the bottle cage.

I saw to the back of the peloton and my team wasn´t at, so I decided to continue riding solo and push hard to test my physical condition after months without doing big effort.

There is a quote I saw recently it says something like “Where the pavement ends the adventure begins”, the next part was a super adventure, we went downhill between a citrus fruit plantation, which was nice, and I could breathe again and get BPM down.

The route was really good marked, the Heladería La 75 planned pretty well. I was going flat out when I saw a sign that said “short route turn left & long route turn right”, in this case I thought -when the things go well turn right- I was feeling in such a great mood so I took right. The path continue going down, it’s in that point when you started to worry because I was going downhill for long time, and Buenavista is at very high altitude. Did you catch that?

While I was enjoying the views I saw in front of me a road with too many mountain bikers at the bottom, I knew in that point the trail started to gain elevation again, and it was fair, you know what I mean!

Have you ever heard about hell? Literally we were in hell, and we needed to climb again to heaven. It was hard, what a hard mountain! Many cyclists got off bikes and preferred continue by walking. I did not give up and pushed hard to reach the top, many of them looked at me very impressed. That point connected again the short and long route. I realized because before to take the intersection to the long route I overtook the man on the Fat Bike (do you remember him at the top of the blog?), and then, when I did summit he was meters ahead of me! And I thought –WTF, this is fucking impossible, how this man was faster than me? - Afterward I realized both routes rejoined, and I felt good, even I stopped to sightseeing and ate a banana. I exchanged a small talk with a cyclist couple, we discussed about the amazing route.

I decided to continue and I only though how my teammates were facing that challenge, because that was so epic! Meters down a new sign “Be careful, risky downhill” I loved that, no Brakes let´s party! I rocked it!

Again at the bottom of the mountain, it started a flat terrain and it was good, a proper way to relax legs muscles. The route turned into pavement, and I was on the road between Armenia and Caicedonia –WTF- even, the route was as if we were going to Buenavista entrance (do you remember when we were going on the car we had to turn left). Ay mama!

I was a little bit tired, and I took Buenavista entrance –This is going to be chaotic-. Again an intersection “turn right buddy and say hello to the mountain”. Climb & climb. But I was about to face one of the best part of the route, I went through a nice landscape surrounded by forest, colorful farms, coffee plants, bamboo, so that was worth it because we got the second hydrating point in which was given an energetic drink, while I was drinking it, I made a cyclist friend from Armenia, we decided to go together to support each other from there onwards, and we both worked together as in a team time trial; pavement again, this time closer to Caicedonia, but we turned left to go on an off-road trail, more or less we gained some elevation, I had ridden on it year ago and I said to him –prepare your legs this is a tough part-, it was a long road, so. I tried to concentrate and kept pedaling as hard as I could, again a sign “turn left”, my new friend was dropped and I kept on my own pace. Flat terrain again, but this time under bamboo forest and citrus fruit plants, even the road turned into a river, what a way to refresh the soul, I saw many cyclists who pulled over to took some photos; but then I found out the river was the hell’s gate, because the next step was indescribable, one of the hardest climb I have ever ridden. Tired people due to the heat wave and pissed off cyclists. I was exhausted, but I got a hydrating point, I had gotten paradise again.

I think I took a shower with all the water the people gave us, I needed, that was a hot day, and we had climbed a tough one. Many cyclists congregated in that point, then we started pedaling sort of like in a peloton, it was a nice part, I had a good companion which motivated me to face the last part of the marathon. Uphill and downhill into the mountains, breathtaking views, what else could you ask for? Then we reached the last hydration point, it meant that we were closer to the finish line, we got hydrating drink and kept pedaling to find the last and hardest climb of the route. My peloton set a high pace, and I couldn’t follow them, I was tired and I needed to save energy for the final meters, so they went own their own pace, I knew I had to push smart.

I was riding solo, no cyclists by my side, and I saw another sign this time: “You are 900 meters far from Buenavista, this is the easiest part of the route, and you are about to get a delicious ice-cream”, I smiled; I knew that it was inverse psychology, it meant HARDEST PART! (It´s like to see the top of Eiffel tower from the garden at bottom of, in our case the top was Buenavista).

Note: Never ever ask “still a long way to get there?” it´s kind of rule for mountain-biking, maybe the first one, well if you don’t know the route previously at least.

A super cyclist reached me, I said super cyclist because of his appearance, he had the last Epic Specialized bike, a super computer on his handle bar, and a 50-10 Sram cassette. I was like in a competition mood, and that destroyed to me, I thought he will make me dust on this wall.

He asked me how I was feeling, very polite from him, I couldn’t answer I was really tired, but I gave him thumbs up, I only could ask him for what kilometer we were riding, he answer “32K, we are 600 meters far from the arrival”, and overtook me, but I didn´t give up, and I followed him as hard as I could, then he followed my pace and I pushed harder, so I dropped him, and I felt like Quintana attacking Froome on Covadonga lakes. What a hard ascent, it was like climbing a wall!

I finished the marathon after 2 hours and 49 minutes (Check it out in the link: https://www.strava.com/activities/708622759), it was one of the nicest and hardest routes I have ever done in my entire life. What and amazing experience, I dare you to test your limits! “Human body was made to move, and is capable of amazing physical feats. If we just could free ourselves from our perceived limitations and take advantage of our inner fire, the possibilities are endless. The only way I knew how to succeed was to try harder than anyone else. Persistence is what has always guided my life”. Dean Karnazes – Ultramarathon man.

KEEP PEDALING!
BEST,
Mauro L.
Follow our adventures on Instagram @mauro_london