4 months agoby Tom Owen

Ascending into thin air: Tour Colombia 2.1

South American gem never drops below 8,000 ft

This week, Rob BrittonNate BrownRobin CarpenterColin JoyceGavin Mannion, and Kyle Murphy will line up in Paipa for Tour Colombia 2.1.

The team is coming in hot off the back of a scorching performance in San Juan, Argentina, where the mercury rarely dropped below 100°F and Gavin Mannion fought his way to a top ten overall. Mannion, the 2018 Colorado Classic champion, will be a protected rider for the team once again. The mountainous parcours promise explosive racing at extreme altitude and the team has the talent to meet the challenge.

Rally Cycling is making its first appearance at the Tour Colombia, but climber Nate Brown is no stranger, having participated in both previous editions. He spoke to the team upon arriving in Colombia about why he loves the event.

The team presentation was so large it had to be held in a fútbol stadium.

“I’m super excited to be back in Colombia. This is my favorite race of the year. The passion that the fans show here is unbelievable, I mean the crowds are insane. I think they rank up there with the Tour de France crowds. It’s always great to be going up a climb and have thousands of people cheering you on.”

For Tour Colombia 2.1, the team is delighted to join forces with Colmédica, one of the leading private healthcare brands in Colombia. Colmédica provides valuable services to people throughout Colombia, and so the local-level partnership during the country’s biggest bike race is a perfect match

Nate says: “It’s always amazing to have sponsors and fans out there, cheering you on. To have a Colombian sponsor cheering us on as well, that adds a bunch of motivation when you’re deep in the hurt locker on the climb.

Nate is also expecting to come up against a powerful peloton of Colombia’s best local riders, as well as the smattering of WorldTour teams: “The caliber of the racers down here in Colombia is insane. You’re looking at this new crop of Colombians coming up and they’re unbelievable – and that makes this race super-hard.”

Rally Cycling will be bringing an attacking, adventurous mindset to Colombia.

We want to be aggressive,” says Nate. “Gavin is obviously riding super well after that top ten at San Juan. We’re gonna be looking for the breakaways, and we’re gonna see where the chips fall. Hopefully, we can get Gavin back in the top ten and keep building from that.”

Stage 1 (Feb 11) – Tunja › Tunja (16.7km) – a tough way to start the race, Nate is no fan of the format: “I tell you one stage I’m not looking forward to – and that’s the team time trial. Ooof! I kinda hate team time trials.”

Stage 2 (Feb 12) – Paipa › Duitama (152.4km) – flat as a pancake with a surefire sprint. Lots of intermediate sprint points up for grabs.

Stage 3 (Feb 13) – Paipa Sogamoso (177.7km) – saw-tooth profile, first KOM points of the race. Brutal elevation will be decisive – not just today, but all week – Nate says: “This year we never drop below 2,500m (8,200ft). I think at the end, altitude is gonna be one of the main deciding factors of who wins overall.” 

Stage 4 (Feb 14) – Paipa Santa Rosa de Viterbo (169km) – final five-kilometer climb just before the finish could provide a decisive springboard.

Stage 5 (Feb 15) – Paipa Zipaquirá (180.5km) – super-hard first half, before a pretty flat finale, sprinters will want this one. 

Stage 6 (Feb 16) – Zipaquirá Alto El Verjón (182.6km) – summit finish, the climbers’ battle royale.

En vivo!
In Colombia, the race will be shown on ESPN 2, while in the US it can be seen on ESPN 3 (Deportes, Spanish audio).