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Trip Report: Latitude Zero, Ecuador

Jan 28, 2014
by John Wellburn  
Sometimes you just have to say "yes" and call up a couple of your favourite people and ask them to join you on an adventure.

This time, "yes" was committing to race Vuelta al Cotopaxi, a two day, 130km long, high altitude XC race in Ecuador, and inviting my favourite Swede, Jenny Liljegren and Canadian (part-time Argentine) photographer John Wellburn, aka: Carrot Top. Racing around the volcano Cotopaxi at 12,000+ feet was never a goal of mine, but finishing something similar to it had a place on my bucket list for quite some time. I knew it was something that I was 'bad' at and made me very uncomfortable and I wanted to tackle it. Waking up and doing something that tests you and throws you outside your comfort zone is something I live for. It's hard to believe a race or an event can be life changing but over my career (and life in general) I've encountered a number of stepping stones, some of which I recognized, some of which I didn't until much later, but in the end they have given me momentum and confidence moving forward. This race was just that for Jenny and myself. We may have been dead last, but we persevered in pouring rain and sleet after 13+ combined hours on the bike and we won. - Katie Holden

Bienvenidos

Bienvenidos!

Katie s loyal custom made cardboard box that has been kept alive for countless journeys by at least a dozen different kinds of tape All arrived in order.

Katie's loyal custom made cardboard box that has been kept alive for countless journeys by at least a dozen different kinds of tape.

Jenny however wasn t so lucky somewhere on the list of connections from Stockholm to the States to Ecuador her bike decided to take it s own route.

Jenny however, wasn't so lucky, and somewhere on the list of connections from Stockholm to Florida and on to Ecuador, her bike decided to take its own route.

Our home for the week Papagayo Hostel not a bad view to wake up to.

Our home for the week, Papagayo Hostel, not a bad view to wake up to.

Only In Ecuador do you see a one year old playing in the railroad tracks and a pig backpack I ve heard of camel bak but pig bak

Only in Ecuador do you see a one year old playing in the railroad tracks and a pig backpack. I've heard of CamelBak but pig bak?

Bike build.

Bike build.

Our host Eran of Gulliver s Expeditions. Eran took it upon himself to be Katie and Jenny s personal trainer for the week we had before the race. His mission was to get them acclimatized and comfortable carrying their bikes at altitude.

Our host, Eran, of Gulliver's Expeditions www.gulliver.com.ec. Eran took it upon himself to be Katie and Jenny's personal trainer for the week we had before the race. His mission was to get them acclimatized and comfortable carrying their bikes at altitude.

Off to the mountain we go.

Off to the mountain we go.

The start of the climb was at a bullfighting ring dried bull heads mark the territory...

The start of the climb was at a bullfighting ring, dried bull heads mark the territory...


The pedalling/bike pushing begins! There's never a lack of beautiful scenery trailside in Ecuador



Katie feeling the altitude burn.

And up onto the shoulders go the bikes. Apparently a section of the race the girls are competing in around the volcano Cotopaxi is a high altitude bike portage. Eran wanted them to know what they were getting into.

Up onto the shoulders go the bikes. Apparently a section of the race the girls are competing in around the volcano Cotopaxi, is a high altitude bike portage. Eran wanted them to know what they were getting into.

Hike and Hike and push and hike a little more.

Hike and hike and push and hike a little more.

Once at the top after the lungs catch up the view is worth every painful step.. Not to mention the ride down that awaits.

Once at the top, after the lungs catch up, the view is worth every painful step, not to mention the ride down that awaits.


The team.

Dropping in

Dropping in!






Little muddy out there.


We decided it was time for a well deserved break from the training to check out some of the sights. Market day it is!.

Jenny just about had a new travelling companion.

Jenny just about went away with a new travelling companion.

They might look cute but guinea pigs in Ecuador are a staple Best guinea pigs in town right here

They might look cute but guinea pigs in Ecuador are a staple food. "Best guinea pigs in town, right here."

Katie making new friends as she does everywhere she goes

Katie making new friends, as she does everywhere she goes.

Nothing like a good market bargain session. Katie getting decked out in some Ecuador duds

Nothing like a good market bargain session. Katie getting decked out in some Ecuador duds.


Eran hooked us up with one of the tours his company does a horseback mission into the extinct volcanic crater lake Quilotoa.

Gulliver's hooked us up with one of the tours they offer, a donkey-back mission into the extinct volcanic crater lake, Quilotoa. Riding a donkey is not as easy as it looks...

Back to the training regimen Race day is coming. It was time to hike up to 5500m on Cotopaxi and ride the bikes down Alcimatization

Back to the training regimen, race day was coming. It was time to hike up to 5500m on Cotopaxi and ride the bikes down, more acclimatization.


Needless to say,15000 feet on the side of a volcano can be a little chilly.

Somewhere on the ride down the volcano the girls decided to stop and make a new friend. He wasn t to sure if he liked bikers or not though

Somewhere on the ride down the volcano the girls decided to stop and make a new friend. He wasn't to sure if he liked mountain bikers or not though.

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi


Race day

Race day




Pretty incredible place to race.

Pretty incredible place to race.

End of day one. The girls had the ride of their lives 75 kms of climbing at altitudes of over 13000 feet. The air is so thin it takes five tries to get one full breath. They encountered every weather imaginable and chalked this one up as one of the hardest days they ve ever had in the saddle..

End of day one. The girls had the ride of their lives, 72 kms of climbing at altitudes of over 13000 feet. The air is so thin it takes five tries to get one full breath. They encountered every weather imaginable and chalked this one up as one of the hardest days they've ever had in the saddle.

Above photos are courtesy of Roberto Espinoso kick ass Ecuadorian photographer. He had a moto for the race and got in deep Thanks Robert

Above photos are courtesy of Roberto Espinoso, kick ass Ecuadorian photographer. He had a moto for the race and got in deep!, Thanks Robert.
http://www.robertoespinosaf.com/




Race day in the bag and legs numb from pedalling we decided to explore a little bit in Quito and found out that there is a tram that actually is set up for bikers not only that there is a whole mountain overlooking the city covered in trails Thats more like it

Race day in the bag, and legs numb from pedalling, we decided to explore a little bit in Quito. We found out there is a tram that is set up for bikers, not only that, there is a whole mountain overlooking the city, covered in trails.

It got a little rainy on the way up

It got a little rainy on the way up.

But by the time we got up above the city the conditions were prime

But by the time we got up above the city, the conditions were prime.





Pretty awesome backdrop.






Our last day in Quito we met up with Daniel Espinoso, the main organizer for the "Vuelta de Cotopaxi" bike race, owner of Cikla bike shop, fellow ripper and all round great guy. He showed us some of the local gems. www.cikla.net



Thats a wrap Until next time ladies

That's a wrap - until next time ladies!


Photos/captions: John Wellburn


40 Comments

  • 27 0
 It's so nice to have your own country pictured in Pink Bike's front page. And the highlands you see are only a small part of the country. We have great trails near to the sea, big forests, jungle... and the best thing of all: nice weather all year long... Everything for every kind of ride from XC, AM to DH.
  • 5 0
 Great photo essay, thanks for sharing Katie, Jenny & John. PB give us more adventure travel stories!
Anyone out there looking to ride sweet Ecuador singletrack...check this out and give us a call. ridebig.com/trip_ecuador_equatorescape.php
  • 6 0
 May be my eyes but the photo of the two guys cycling towards the mountain with ones hand on the others back, one of their legs is missing ??????
  • 1 0
 It looks like that, but im pretty sure that i can see the riders heel. I cant really tell there.
  • 2 0
 That is trippy! But you can make out his shoe, sock and a bit of the skin on the back of his calf.
  • 2 0
 take a look at the Hi-res version, looks like a little clone stamp mistake in photoshop. he has two legs haha
  • 1 0
 Haha, you are so correct eldofreeride.
  • 3 0
 Born and raised in Ecuador myself, it's humbling to see the beautiful country I've left behind in pursuit of better education, a place that I once abandoned for ten long years. So thanks PB, not only for rekindling the love I have for my land, but for the passion you've ignited in other through this simple, and literally breathtaking exposure. And for those that have yet to make the trip, just do it.
  • 3 0
 Amazing to see my country and trails I ride in displayed here on pb.

I invite all of you mtn. bike lovers, trail junkies, all mountain riders to check out the Biking Dutchman All Mountain tours for personalized day or multiple day tours. We can literally take you to all the trails ridden in this trip, as well as many more of our country's best natural single track; and the sunny beaches too!

www.bikingdutchman.com/bd-all-mountain
Come ride with us!

Salud!
  • 4 0
 Going to Ecuador in October. Never realised there was proper riding you could do out there. Looks like I'm packing my gear then..
  • 4 1
 Amazing to see my country and trails I ride in displayed here on pb.

I invite all of you mtn. bike lovers, trail junkies, all mountain riders to check out the Biking Dutchman All Mountain tours for personalized day or multiple day tours. We can literally take you to all the trails ridden in this trip, as well as many more of our country's best natural single track; and the sunny beaches too! Smile

www.bikingdutchman.com/bd-all-mountain
Come ride with us!

Salud!
  • 1 1
 Hey there! I'm so glad to see all the pictures that show off Gulliver Expedition's work and support for traveling in Ecuador! You can contact us and it will be our pleasure to help you organize your tour to Ecuador! www.gulliver.com.ec John, Katie and Jenny it was ah honor to be your hosts for your wonderful experience in Ecuador. Hope to see you again!
  • 3 0
 SO JEALOUS!!!! I went travelling to Ecuador back on 2008 on my gap year and I loved it! I returned to only find out about all the biking opportunities I'd missed out on! Still an amazing experience and I'd love to go back!
  • 4 0
 John ! You are the man, outstanding pictures ,now I know why going south in the winter!
  • 4 0
 I really can't say the word Ecuador with out doing it in a sash 90's dance type voice!
  • 2 0
 That's some hardcore altitude. Well done. A buddy of mine moved to Ecuador about 18 months ago, bought a shrimp farm. I'm now even more jealous of his new country...
  • 3 1
 Man helmets and bikes are like rollers on a girl,they inmediately look hot!
  • 1 0
 Amazing, but I am still worried about the bull's head staying leaned out possibly forever, or it's a clever bull which has its ways.
  • 3 0
 You realize it is a dead bull's head? I don't think he cares anymore...
  • 1 1
 I was looking at it for some time and saw it allive, but now when I know your point I recognize this white triangle to be the sky behind the building. We all have eyes, but we all, or at least me, see it differently.
  • 2 0
 it´s dead, read the picture,' dried heads lead the way...'
  • 3 0
 OK ok ok I am reading and I am knowing. "EVERYBODY STAY CALM.. EVERYBODY CALM DOWN" (www.pinkbike.com/video/327551)
  • 1 0
 A 26" Giant looked really good with a lady. Too bad they don't make them no more. Is that bike worth more than it was at purchase time?
  • 2 0
 Very cool write up Katie and Mister Carrot takes awesome photos, really enjoyed them !
  • 1 0
 I just wish i could travel over there!.. quite hard for a 13 year old though. The suspension on the scott ladies bike was MASSIVE!
  • 2 0
 I can't even imagine pedaling at that altitude! Way to go girls!
  • 2 0
 PigBack = Bacon, Hmmmmmm..... Bacon......
  • 1 0
 Ha. So that is what a proper piggyback ride looks like.
  • 2 0
 Ecuador ! Awesome country if you love adventure and grate people !
  • 2 0
 Pls don't grate people. Just kiddin
  • 1 0
 Awesome Im from Ecuador and I haven't try this competitio, but I hope this is the year.
  • 2 0
 WOW. Thank Jebus for photo cameras!
  • 2 0
 Look awe
  • 2 0
 That dirt!
  • 2 0
 Dat Lama!
  • 1 0
 That's what LA could look like without cars or smog..
  • 1 0
 Yeah girls!!! Looks like fun- bring me next time! Miss you ladies!
  • 1 0
 GENIAL LAS FOTOS, Y MUY BUENA AVENTURA
  • 1 0
 Ecuador 3

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