La Leyenda 2017 Route - 7 stages, 482km, 16,082m+
One of the most common racer questions we receive is regarding the Leyenda route and what The Everest of Mountain Biking actually entails. Well, with the exception of one stage, the 2017 Leyenda route is a brand new challenge that took us five months to consolidate over the course of various adventure filled trips, and it promises to be an absolute cracker! Starting in Manizales, you and your partner will roll down the ramp in the heart of the city centre and be cheered on your way by thousands of locals in the fast flowing prologue. You'll descend around a 1,000m over the next 43km taking you to the tropical heat of La Rochela, near the mighty Cauca river. Your home for the next two nights sees you surrounded by delicious citrus fruits and exotic birds fluttering in the trees above, and the next day's stage, 'Coffee', provides stunning views of the coffee plantations and orange orchards in the south-western part of the Caldas department, as well as a good introduction to the types of climbs that lie ahead.
Stage 2, Jungle, is where things really ramp up with various river crossings, one on a shaky suspension bridge, and the steepest climb of the race, fearfully named, 'The Drain.' It also has probably one of the most rewarding views on a bicycle you'll ever have, with coffee plantations and sugar cane framed amongst the clear blue sky to make it all worthwhile. The quaint colonial town of Salamina is next up, perched on top of a mountain itself, and its marvellously preserved square, twisty roads and steep mountain slopes provide the backdrop for the Cross Country circuit in Stage 3, with the whole town out on the streets to push you around and show Colombia's passion for cycling.
By now you'll have four stages in your legs, but the next two days provide a completely different challenge. Stage 4, Legend, sees you head up to Colombia's higher altitudes, home to the Páramo, one of the world's most unique and spectacular ecosystems, and summits at just over 3,600m. You pass 60m tall wax palm trees and rural villages, before a smooth 35km descent that emerges at an eerie abandoned factory on the outskirts of Manizales. From there, the luxurious Termales del Otoño hotel and thermal baths await, but so does the Queen stage and highest climb of La Leyenda 2017 in Stage 5, Volcanoes. You and your partner will pass one huge waterfall, see two of South America's highest active volcanoes and face three brutal climbs, one of them taking you up to the race summit at 3,850m where two teams will be crowned 'Kings' and 'Queens' of the volcano. The final stage, El Dorado, is only 29km, but with two more testing ascents taking the overall ascent in The Everest of Mountain Biking to over 16,000m. You probably won't be thinking about that, however, as you're welcomed back 'home' to Manizales after a week on the road with a 'Champs Elysee' style welcome down the city's main thoroughfare, before finishing where it all began seven stages earlier. You'll have been angry, tired and hungry, amongst many other emotions, but it'll all be worthwhile when you cross the line and become a 2017 Legend.