LA LEYENDA 2018 RACE REVIEW
#LA LEYENDA 2018
"I think it was the highlight of my cycling career. I've never experienced anything like it. The energy took me to another place, free of thoughts, it was like a spiritual experience.” That was how Nick Gould, American pro rider, described the arrival to Neira at the end of Stage 4, Jungle. A new town in the history of La Leyenda that saw over 2,000 children create a deafening tunnel up the final 20% climb to the main square, more akin to Alp D'Huez in the Tour de France, than a mountain bike stage race, and according to Jacob Cerón, three time Legend, "The best ever Leyenda arrival." It's these goose bump provoking moments that have become emblematic of La Leyenda del Dorado over its three editions and make it one of the most unique events on the planet for professional and amateur mountain bikers alike.
And that's without even considering the seven stage, 466km route with over 15,000m of vertical ascent, described as 'The Everest of Mountain Biking.' Technical singletracks and tropical temperatures, as well as orange and macadamia farms in the Prologue, maze like sections through coffee plantations and skiddy descents in Stage One, and then treacherous conditions in Stage Two with mud, suspension bridges and one of Colombia's biggest rivers were all passed by the 220 racers in just the first three days.
Salamina, one of the jewels in Colombia's crown of stunning colonial towns, was the week's mid point and its explosive Cross Country course saw a welcome return of the sun and a recharge of batteries, ready for the journey back south towards Manizales.
A cavernous, steep sided jungle valley took racers via Aranzazu to the raucous reception in Neira, leaving just two stages for 'Legend' status to be achieved. However, one of those was the almighty Queen Stage, Volcano, up to the race summit at 3,850m, one of the highest stages in world mountain biking. Racers were granted rare views of the snow capped summit on what Ibon Zugasti called, "The Queen Stage of Queen Stages.”
And so to Stage 6, named after the mythical El Dorado, and to bring this chapter to a close in Manizales, where it all began a week earlier. Under the shadow of the cathedral Hans Becking and Tiago Ferreira were crowned male winners, Liliana Uzcategui and Monica Calderón took the ladies title, but the achievements of the nearly 200 amateurs showed the true character of La Leyenda with hugs and tears telling life changing stories of strife and sacrifice, but soon turning to smiles and cheers for the final award ceremony and end of race party.
Rafael Menini, an amateur from Brazil, summed it up with his line, "The Legend. There's nothing more to say. We are Legends!”
Are you ready to take all this on in La Leyenda 2019? Next year promises to be the biggest Leyenda yet so make sure you don't miss out and register soon for a legendary week of mountain biking in Colombia. All the information about the race can be found on the website.