Words: Chigüiro Extremo
5:00 am and the team ready at the top to start the assembly of what would be the track for the Manizales Urban Downhill Fair in its 15th edition. We have approximately 40 people for logistics and 15 people to assemble ramps and taping the track. Due to the difference building of the track to the traditional downhill, we only had time for the assembly from Friday night, for this same reason we advanced work and assemble the jump to the finish line. Everything was going smoothly, the entire team was in action, putting foam protectors on the railings and high-risk points, assembling ramps, delimiting the route and balancing the logistics of the event, until a few drops began to fall, increasing minute by minute to what would be a heavy down pour.
We couldn't stop and get out of the rain because the event had a specific time limit for road closures and use of the city gondolas, so the track had to be ready for competition at 8:00 am sharp. The heavy rain continued, we continued working as well and the outlook wasn't very encouraging. In a traditional downhill these conditions were normal and the competitors would change for mud tires and do their training and race without problem, obviously the conditions are difficult but the event continues without major complications but the urban Downhill is a completely different story since the terrain varies between cement, tiles, dirt, all the surfaces you find in the streets of a city but all with the same characteristic, they are all solid surfaces where the tire studs do not dig and you lose grip easily
Start time for training was approaching and the weather was improving, little by little the riders arrived to start training. Some of the riders were a little worried about the conditions in which the course was found but we fully trusted them, for this reason it is an invitational event to reduce the chances of having serious accidents, they are the best downhill riders in Colombia and likewise the invited riders, Ben Moore from Great Britain and Martin Brza from the Czech Republic.
We started training and wet conditions began to claim their victims, fortunately crashes that riders could resume their training without any problem. In the same way, cement does not forgive and no matter how minor the fall, one will always have several scratches. The weather and the race environment improved, the track was drying out and the speed was increasing, giving the competitors the confidence to risk a little more and the public began to gather in the most dangerous sectors encouraging each cyclist to go faster.
Two hours and thirty minutes assigned for training had passed, giving way to qualifying. Where 3 U17 cyclists, 3 Ladies and 15 elites would be part of the grand finale, the most important show of the day and thus once again choose the fastest at the Manizales race. These would be the 21 fastest athletes who would enter the final of the Urban Downhill Feria de Manizales with Simón Restrepo (U17) making the elites tremble with a time of 1:41.05, Valentina Roa (Ladies) impeccably performs all the obstacles of the course with a time of 1:53.46 and Juan Fernando Muñóz (Elite) with 1:32.81 and maintains his high level with which he finished 2022.
Finals began fast, starting with the U17 where the two fastest times Simón Restrepo and Juan José Jaramillo had a very close 2022, even achieving better track times in the Colombia Enduro Series and Downhill Series, showing that there is a good future in the minor categories. Starting with Jacobo Mejía and improving his qualifying time by a few seconds, but it doesn't last long in the “Los Neneis” Hot Seat because Juan José Restrepo appears with a very good run with a time of 1:38:70. It doesn't take long for Simón Restrepo to drop, making the fastest time, bettering his qualifying with a time of 1:37.36 and winning by 1.34 seconds over Juan José.
Now it was the turn of the Ladies Category, it was going hard race for Valentina Lozada and Valentina Garcés since their most important rival, Valentina Roa, came from an incredible 2022 season where she was a Bronze medalist in the Downhill World Championship in Les Gets, France, among other great results. But as in all sports, the result was unpredictable because in training Valentina Roa had destroyed her rear wheel and Valentina Garcés had had a hard fall in the fastest jump on the track. Nothing was written until the last athlete crosses the finish line. Valentina Garcés opened the ladies category with a time of 2:04.33, a clean run but since she did not complete the big obstacles, time was going to be very likely to be dropped. A few minutes later Valentina Lozada arrives and she fails to lower Valentina Garcés' time and she is in 2nd place. The only rider that remained was Valentina Roa, she had a great and clean descent, attacking all the obstacles on the track, she managed to destroy the time by 14 seconds and achieved a time of 1:50.11.
The people was already at its maximum attendance occupying the platforms, streets and stands of the entire route waiting for the 15 fastest cyclists of the day. The sun had completely dried the track and it was certain that the track times were going to improve. One by one they were making their descent and as expected times dropped. Favorites like Steven Ceballos would have problems with his chain and had to roll for most of the track, although this mechanical was not a problem to keep descending and gave the people a great show. A group of 5 runners tied at the same second with minimum differences of hundredths of a second, until the runner from Antioquia Esteban Muñóz achieves a time of 1:38.54, showing that the time could be lowered. Only the fastest in qualifying remained, Sebastián Holguín, who was making his official debut in the elite category and had just become the only Latino to obtain a podium in the Downhill World Cup the previous year. Camilo Sánchez the winner of RedBull Monserrate Cerro Abajo ’22 and Juan Fernando Muñoz Vélez winner of the ’22 version of the Urban Downhill of Manizales and 2nd place in RedBull Monserrate Cerro abajo ’22. Any of them could be the winner of this edition.
First it would be the turn of Sebastian Holguín “Mini," he makes an aggressive but stylish run, didn't pedal as hard as other races, but even so, the time of Esteban Muñoz falls by almost 5 seconds, an incredible time of 1:33.84. People explode upon hearing this new time, some even assuring that it would not be possible to lower it. Minutes later Camilo Sánchez "Paquito" with his aggressive style and trying to remedy the result of the previous year where he could not compete in the final due to a mechanical failure, manages to make the hardest lines and a strong shot in the pedaling zone, lowers him 2.5 seconds to the time of Holguín, 1:31.34 minutes. After Camilo managed to lower this time in such a way, the public believed that it would be very difficult for Juan Fernando to improve that time and he would need a flawless run without mistakes. The eyes of all the assistants at the finish line were directed to the big screen, the cameras followed Juan Fernando throughout his entire run, seeing how he completed each section with his maximum effort. The screaming of the people surpass the speakers of the narrator of the event, Juan Fernando crosses the finish line and there is a pause between all the attendees while the official time is known. 1:31.32 is the time of Juan Fernando, champion of the Urban Downhill of the Manizales Fair for the 2nd consecutive time, by only 2 hundredths of a second. A minimal difference, possibly the smallest margin for a winner among all the editions of the Manizales Urban Downhill.
The awards ceremony is held and once again we crown the fastest riders in the event, this year with two new categories (U17 and Ladies) that join the elite to make the biggest sports show of the Manizales Fair.
Elite Podium (L to R) 4th Esteban Muñoz, 2nd Camilo Sanchez, 1st Juan Fernando Muñoz, Jorge Jaramillo/Chiguiro, 3rd Sebastián Holguín, 5th Sebastian Posada.
Women's Podium (L to R) 4th Luciana Polania, 2nd Valentina Garces, 1st Valentina Roa, 3rd Valentina Lozada, 5th Maria Clara Agudelo.
U17 Podium (L to R) 4th Juan Pablo Delgado, 2nd Juan Jose Jaramillo, 1st Simon Restrepo, 3rd Jacobo Mejia, 5th Jeronimo Ramirez