South America in General is perhaps my favorite location to travel to because it is unlike anywhere else in the world I've ever visited. From the outside, everything seems very unorganized and laid back, but I've learned that's just how it works down here. 

There is plenty of poverty and questionable looking living quarters, but you meet a local to the area and they are happier and friendlier than can be. They don't get frustrated with my "gringo espanol" but instead try to help you understand them and help you out if they can. In America, I feel that foreigners aren't treated with this same kind of companionship. Instead, most would get frustrated with said foreigner and insist they speak English.

Navigating traffic. A motorcycle or bicycle is for sure the fastest way to get around here.

Navigating traffic. A motorcycle or bicycle is for sure the fastest way to get around here.

On day one in Cota, Colombia, Spencer, Howard and I came across several youngins who insisted we come over and try their dirt jumps. It was a great experience trying to communicate with them. We had a descent conversation and some jokes were cracked. They thought Spencer had a big nose and brought it to his attention! I could see how being immersed in a county that speaks another language would force you to pick up that language very quickly. I felt in our 15 minutes with these kids, my vocabulary grew quite a bit. One kid even pointed that out by saying my Spanish is getting better.

                               Dirt jumps! They were actually impressed with our skills..

                               Dirt jumps! They were actually impressed with our skills..

As we left the dirt jumps, the kids rode with us for a bit. One sprinted by yelling Nairo Quintana as he passed! I thought that was quite funny!

As we left the dirt jumps, the kids rode with us for a bit. One sprinted by yelling Nairo Quintana as he passed! I thought that was quite funny!

The main reason for coming to Colombia was the 2015 Pan American Championships; a competition open to any North or South American. This was my 5th time competing in the event but my second time returning to Colombia. While the course was a different venue, I had a good idea of what to expect.

The race started at 8,500 feet and after not being at altitude since way back in Decemeber, I knew I needed to race a smart race and ride within my limits. The course was very demanding; tons of climbing with little recovery. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was happy I brought my full suspension down. The elite men had 7 laps on tap which was going to take it's toll on you. I believe it came out to almost 4,000 feet of climbing in just 15 miles.

                The view from the top of the course looking down on the town of Cota.

                The view from the top of the course looking down on the town of Cota.

              Howard (your new U23 Pan Am Champion!) in his element.. steep climbing!

              Howard (your new U23 Pan Am Champion!) in his element.. steep climbing!

I had a good start and found myself sitting in 3rd after lap one. I rode my pace which meant forcing others to pass me, but I stayed within my limits. I fell back as far as 15th, but was knocking out consistent lap times. The last 3 laps I started picking guys off and finished the day in 9th. Perhaps I could've pushed it more but I was nervous about potentially blowing up. Some valuable UCI points were accumulated which will help out immensely at the first World Cup come May

                Post race Merengones (a type of cake!) were a nice treat after a hard race!

                Post race Merengones (a type of cake!) were a nice treat after a hard race!

I got out of Colombia pretty quick, catching the 12:14 AM flight out of Bogota. I'm back in Tucson for a day and then I'll begin the drive back to Colorado. I'm already looking forward to riding Capatin Jacks later this week!

A huge thank goes out to Marc (National Team director), Tom Neb (mechanic) and Bernard Condevaux (soigneur) for all their hard work. They are the behind the scene operation that keeps team USA rolling. Thanks a ton guys! As a whole, I think this was one of team USA's best Pan Ams in recent years. 8 podiums and 3 wins!