With the coming of December there are enough gringo mountain bikers in winter residence in Oaxaca to constitute a weekday riding group. On this first day of December five guys set out from Oaxaca to ride an epic loop in the mountains. The plan was to ride in the Sierra Norte from La Cumbre to La Neveria and then plunge down the mountainside on the Mil Rios trail (14% grade in many places) into Tlalixtac. The total distance for the day’s outing amounted to 45.9 miles (73.8 kms) and had a total elevation gain & loss of 6518 feet (1987 meters). The group pedaled to the monumento on the east side of town, where they hired a camioneta to haul themselves and their gear up Hwy 175 to La Cumbre. This mechanical assist eliminated pedaling 13 miles (21 kms) and saved the group climbing 3875 feet (1181 meters) up the mountainside. But that still left a challenging 32.9 miles (52.9 kms) for the gringos to manage under their own power.
The portion of the ride between La Cumbre and (almost to) La Neveria entailed riding 12.3 miles (19.8 kms) on logging roads — which, as it happened, had several crews cutting trees in the forest and hauling the logs out on nearly a dozen trucks. Our bikers managed to climb 2075 feet (632 meters) and descend 1918 feet (584 meters) on this segment of the ride.
The most challenging part of the ride — and the most fun — was the descent on the Mil Rios trail. It was also the most confusing. Even though one fellow in our group had ridden this way before and we had a fairly accurate GPS map of the trail, we still managed to make a couple of wrong turns. For a while it was a comedy of errors — think “Laurel and Hardy meet the Three Stooges”. At one point we spent 45 minutes bushwhacking up and over a ridge in the hope of connecting with the correct trail. Happily, we were successful in this endeavor. And once on the Mil Rios trail, it was all downhill. A good part of the trail was great fun, as we swooped merrily through the woods. But there were also many really steep and rocky sections that had some of our riders hike-a-biking. We found the Mil Rios trail ran 9 miles (14.5 kms), dropping 3768 feet (1148 meters) in altitude to the town of Tlalixtac on the floor of the Tlacolua Valley. From there the final 7.9 miles (12.7 kms) was an easy ride back to Oaxaca.
Monday, 21 November 2016 was “Revolution Day”, a Mexican national holiday. It seemed a good day for a ride in the rolling hill country of the Etla Valley northwest of Monte Alban. Over many rides the past couple of years, Albi has become quite an expert on the area, as this is one of his favorite regions to explore via bicycle. We drove to the village of San Felipe Tejalapam, unloaded our bikes at the municipal building there and proceeded to ride some rough country roads north to Santo Tomas Tomaltepec and back. We returned by a slightly different route which followed a stream rather than climb up and over the same ridge we negotiated on the first leg of our trek. In the course of the outing we spent 2.5 hours in the saddle and pedaled a total of 11.7 miles (18.8 kms). The first half of the ride entailed climbing 1621 feet (494 meters) to cross the ridgeline that separates the two towns. The return leg was somewhat easier, with just 1397 feet (426 meters) of elevation gain. However, where the outbound segment was entirely on country roads, the return was a scramble through farm fields, along and sometimes in a stream, and over some pretty rugged terrain. Our start/end point was the lowest in altitude, registering 5432 feet (1656 meters), while the highest altitude reached was 6110 feet (1862 meters) at the top of the ridgeline. All in all, it was a most satisfying ride.
On 3 October 1866 a famous battle took place near Miahuatlan during the time of the French Intervention, when Napoleon III dispatched a French army to conquer Mexico and install the Austrian Archduke Maximilian as emperor. This foreign invasion was vigorously contested by Mexican President Benito Juarez, whose financial and military resources were considerably less than his opponents. One of Juarez’ leading generals was Porfirio Diaz, who like Juarez hailed from the state of Oaxaca. Diaz relied on an imaginative use of terrain and deception to lure French troops into an ambush, which resulted in a clear victory and paved the way for Diaz to later capture Oaxaca city and eventually become president of Mexico, a position he held from 1876 to 1880 and again from 1884 to 1911.
As part of the 150th anniversary of this battle, the people of Miahuatlan staged a 35.4 km (22.0 mi) mountain bike race through the streets of the city and out into the countryside. Multiple teams from neighboring towns accepted the invitation to take part, as did many individual bikers. The race got under way shortly after 10 am, and the fastest cyclists began crossing the finish line about 12:15 pm. The last of the riders completed the rigorous course some three hours later.
In making their way around the race circuit, riders were challenged by an elevation gain and loss of 3436 feet (1047 meters). Miahuatlan’s city center sits at an elevation of 5191 feet (1582 meters). The high point of the race topped out at 6266 feet (1910 meters), while the low point was 5083 feet (1549 meters).
There was a cross-country mountain bike race today (9 October 2016) in the nearby village of Huayapam, so it was decided this would be the destination for the Sunday Summit Cyclery shop ride. Ten fellows set out from Colonia Reforma at 8:30 to ride to Huayapam. The group stopped briefly for breakfast along the way and arrived at the ecotourism park in Huayapam, where the race was held, just in time for the start of the contest. Well over 100 racers took part in the event, spread out in the elite, masters, women’s and beginners’ classes. The course followed basically the same route as last year’s race, with a couple of small adjustments to avoid some areas of high water around the presa in Huayapam. Both race contestants and spectators appeared to enjoy the day’s activity.
This Sunday morning — 25 September 2016 — dawned bright and clear, proffering a great opportunity for a gentle ride through the countryside around Oaxaca city. Members of the Nitos bike club assembled in the plaza in front of Santo Domingo at 8 AM and shortly thereafter set out on a loop ride through San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Arrazola, Cuilapam and back to Oaxaca. All told, there were eighteen riders in the group. Through the morning and into the early afternoon the group rode a total of 21.7 miles (35 kms), with an elevation gain and loss of 1164 feet (355 meters) along the way. The high point topped out at 5523 feet (1683 meters), while the low point of the day’s ride was 5054 feet (1540 meters).