Young, smart, hard working and passionate about cycling – let's have a chat with our ambassadress Mariana Restrepo.
Mariana, you and cycling, what's the story?
It's quite short but intensive. I grew up in Medellín, Colombia in a family of passionate cyclists. Cycling has always been my father's biggest love and my brother fell for the sport, too. My mother loves cycling, too, so it was perhaps a bit strange that I didn't jump on the family bandwagon straight away. I started to play tennis from a very early age and stuck with it until university. When I was 15, my dad bought me a road bike and took me on a ride that started with a 12 km climb with a 7% average gradient so you can imagine it wasn't the kind of experience that would easily win me over. I tried to ride a few more times I remember always suffering, not being able to enjoy the good sides of riding. So it wasn't until I was 21 that things clicked. My brother had started cycling a few years earlier and showed great promise. It looked like he might become a pro for a while and he went to Spain and raced there for a few years. But eventually, he decided to focus on his career and ride the bike as a serious hobby. It was he who inspired me to take up cycling and I am very grateful to him for it.
Do you remember what was it you liked the best about cycling when you first took it up?
I started to meet new people who took me on incredible rides to unbelievable places in my country that I had never been to. Cycling became part of my everyday life. I liked the routine of it and I finally could understand the commitment it brought into people's lives. I understood why my father would always go to bed early to be able to get up early on weekdays to go for a ride before work. I understood why he would always sneak out of parties and social events to be fresh the next morning. I could even understand why he would ride when it was raining. I could finally understand how cycling could shape a person's life. How it becomes not just a sports activity but a part of your lifestyle. I could see how cycling was becoming my grounding pole, the solution to many of my problems and something I enjoyed doing most in my life.
Now you have been a keen a passionate cyclist for several years, how would you characterize the role cycling plays in your life? And how does it square with your new career in law?
I think cycling helped me realize that in life we must enjoy every moment, circumstance and stage we are going through. That we should live for the day. I’ve noticed that when you begin to enjoy your everyday routines, you begin to understand the true balance of life. In between early bike rides on weekdays, long days at the office, time spent with friends and family socializing and riding on weekends, I find the perfect balance. I enjoy every minute of it. Cycling has definitely helped me achieve a new mindset. Discipline, focus and passion. These are my daily mantras. Cycling is a constant challenge that makes me want to keep pushing. It motivates me every day to continue pedalling and enjoying the roads, friends, long rides and incredible landscapes you can only enjoy on a bicycle.
What would you say makes riding in Medellín different from other places?
Well, one thing is that to get onto the country roads you have to ride uphill for a good while. The city sits in a bowl that you have to climb out of. Once you do that the countryside opens and you can ride for miles and miles. Medellín has a fantastic climate for cycling. The temperatures mostly range from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius. It’s not for nothing that they call it the City of the Eternal Spring.
Can you think of anything unusual about cycling in Medellín or Colombia in general?
Because of the huge success of Colombian pro cyclists on the international level, the respect for cyclists on the roads has grown enormously. It’s quite a nice symbiosis. Even so, it is common for riders to have a motorbike bringing up the rear on rides for added visibility and other practical reasons such as carrying supplies, tools etc. There are businesses that provide motorbike escorts to cyclists as a paid service now. I think this is very good.
Is there a sense of community among amateur and hobby cyclists? Are there races they can participate in and places where they can meet?
Of course! Many! (list at the end of article) As regards races, there are several gran fondos, including those created by famous pros Rigoberto Uran and Nairo Quintana. And there are many cafés where people can meet pre or post-ride, get their bikes serviced or buy whatever they need. During the big races, Colombia gets a cycling fever and people meet here to watch their favourite riders battling it out with the rest of the world.
What is your next big cycling challenge?
I am training to do a climb called "Letras". It’s 3,187 metres of climbing over 80.5 km. I’m sure it will hurt but I’m looking forward to it.
This brings us to the final topic. You and your FESTKA…
My first encounter with a FESTKA was when my dad and I went for a ride with my dad’s great friend Willy Gill who is part of Melody Farms – a big FESTKA community based in Miami. Since that day I dreamt about riding one. It took a while to realise that dream and it fulfilled all my expectations. The bike is light, agile and very comfortable. I can ride it for as long as I want. As regards the design scheme, blue has always been my favourite colour so I knew I wanted to have some blue on the frame. And I love the look of Festka’s raw carbon so I opted for a custom blue gradient for the logotype on the downtube. The overall look is sober, classic and unique at the same time. The bike certainly attracts a lot of attention and many compliments. The brand has an iconic status here in Colombia and I am proud to be one of its flag bearers.
FESTKA Scalatore in a CORE design scheme with custom colour logos and lettering.
El Giro de Rigo: www.elgiroderigo.com
Gran Fondo Nairo Quintana www.granfondonairoquintana.com
La Ruta Colombia www.larutacolombia.com
Concepción (traditional, pretty Colombian village) - open in STRAVA
Mesopotamia (ride through a beautiful landscape with very little traffic) - open in STRAVA
written by: Janek Jaros
photos: Mariana’s personal archive