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In a recent interview with The New York Times (NYT), Jorge Mauricio Vargas Carreño, the president of the Colombian Cycling Federation, proudly proclaimed that cycling is big in the country.
He told NYT writer James Wagner that although Colombia’s heart beats soccer, “cycling is the second-biggest sport in the country”.
This should come as no surprise as Colombia has a long history of shining bright at international cycling events like the Tour de France. Luis Herrera, known as Lucho, became the first Colombian to win a stage in the race in 1984.
Most recently Egan Bernal became the first Latin American to win the Tour de France.
According to Bernal, cycling is part of Colombian culture. Speaking to NYT, the 26-year-old said that about 90% of households in the country have a bike and use it as a mode of transportation.
“Everyone in Colombia is happy when they’re given their first bike,” he said.
Wagner writes, “The coronavirus pandemic only deepened Colombia’s connection with the sport, with people buying more bicycles to get around and exercise.”
Bicycling.com’s Aaron Gulley echoes the same sentiment in an article titled, Colombia Just Might Be the Bucket-List Cycling Destination You’re Looking For. In it, he writes about the booming cycling culture in Bogotá.
The capital’s former mayor Enrique Peñalosa is a cyclist himself, and during his time in office, he erected signs like “Cyclists are civic heroes”, and “Cyclists are our community priority” next to busy roads and cycling routes.
Bogotá has become world famous for popularising the Ciclovía, a weekly event on Sundays that sees over 60 miles of the city’s streets closed to cars, enabling citizens to explore by bike or on foot.
More than half of all Bogotá households have at least one bike, and there are lots of city bikes available to rent too.
The official tourism website the Republic of Colombia, proudly proclaims; “Because of the soaring mountains, Colombia is one of the world’s best places to ride. In Manizales, you will find the most challenging climb in the country, known as ‘Alto de Letras’.
“The Andes region is home to famous cyclists from Colombia, where you will find difficult ascents punctuated by incredible downhills. So if you are a bike lover, traveling by bicycle is an amazing way to discover unique places.”
Local experts say the nation’s socioeconomics, history, and typography are the main reasons behind Colombia’s ever-growing love for all things cycling.