Whitney and Zack Allison on Whitney’s Transcordilleras win.

With Whitney and Zack Allison


Clocking in at eight stages (or one extremely looong stage for the likes of Rob Britton), a total distance of 600+ miles, and over 70,000 (seventy thousand) feet of climbing through the Colombian Andes, the Transcordilleras is an unforgiving mega epic wherein each rider is wholly responsible for themselves – though there are opportunities for help. Especially if you’re married to the help.

That was the case for Whitney Allison, who took Zack Allison, her lawfully wedded pack mule – err, husband, on an eight-day night out on some of the most brutal terrain in the world. Whitney scored a win in the stage-race version of the event.

Though we joke about Zack being a pack mule, he may have actually just slowed her down. Don’t believe us? His idea of motivation was bellowing Meatloaf lyrics at her during the race’s most difficult sections. And she put it up with it and still found the motivation and grit to win. We’d do anything for love. We might not do that. That only proves that Whitney is much tougher than we are, but even she had trouble with the grueling challenge (70,000 feet!).

In this Q&A, the Amazing Allisons give us the highs and lows of the Andes.


The Transcordilleras Colombia is arguably (or arguably not arguable in the least) THE most challenging mixed-surface stage race on the planet. That said, having chosen to undertake the 2024 edition, it begs a couple of questions from each of you:

A. Which of the 10 officially classified personality disorders on the DSM have you been diagnosed with? 
B. Has the disorder(s) abated or worsened since completing the event?

Ok, we kid, we kid... sorta.

Whitney Allison: Ha! I had to look these up. I think I fall more in the blissfully ignorant category, followed by "what have I done,” and “dammit I'm winning and now I'm stuck with my choices.” I definitely devolved into a primitive human being focused on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but like just the bottom – sleep, food, hydration, and a sliver of safety.

I didn't think the event would prove to be as difficult as it was, and it was only exacerbated by the extreme heat and humidity. This was my first experience doing anything this voluminous/intense over so many days, and the body's reactions have been a new experience for me.

Zak Allison: I think Transcordilleras gave me more disorders than I had before I did it.


Give us an idea of what all you were carrying each day on your bike, your pack and in your pockets.

Whitney: I had my Ortlieb bags organized by theme between the handlebar bag, frame bag, and seat pack. The handlebar bag had things I might need that day – snacks, sunscreen, monies, passport, Chamois Butt'r, ibuprofen. The frame bag was toiletries, all my First Endurance supplements, laundry soap, instant coffee, and some mechanical stuff – lube, WTB sealant, etc. The seat pack had a spare kit and two lightweight outfits. Originally I also had a down jacket and more layers (because as mountain folk know, you have to respect the mountains), but… after stage 4 I ended up shipping that outta there. 

Because I have a 52 ENVE MOG frame, I could only carry small bottles with the top tube bag and chose to bring a USWE pack so I could carry about 3 liters of water at a time. My PEARL iZUMi jersey had my phone, a GoPro, snacks to match the amount of water I had, dynaplug + multitool, cash, and chapstick with sunscreen. The ENVE in-frame storage held the rest of the "saddle bag" items – tubes, co2, etc. 

I did do an Instagram post before I left full details of everything, and in full disclosure, I did ditch a few more items before race day.

Zack: For the first stage, we started with gels, FE hydration, etc., and we carried a wallet, an extra jersey and set of bibs, one pair of super light pants, one pair of light board shorts, a T-shirt, a light wind/rain jacket, some Xero shoes, sunscreen, Chamois Butt’r, GoPro’s… and that's pretty much it. We also started with packable down jackets and some other clothes that we ended up shipping back after a couple days – the course was way hotter and lower than other years. After a few days we pretty much swapped all food to bocadillo and fruit for riding while gathering water, Coke, and Electrolit from tiendas.

As a follow-up to that last question: What do you wish you would have brought, but didn't, and was there anything you did haul around Colombia that you wish you had left behind?

Whitney: I actually wish I had brought more Verve instant coffee from home. The race did have some espresso but I felt like I had no control over what became six very big stages in a row and having control over this tiny, sweet morning ritual became important to me...even if the ritual was just shaking up instant coffee with filtered water in a leftover Electrolit bottle. The only other thing that really surprised me is that I blew through double the sunscreen and ended up having to buy it two more times. Elevation + Close to the equator = The sun gets intense quick! 

I live in Colorado and you quickly learn to respect the mountains. Looking at past photos of the event, I brought a PEARL iZUMi lightweight jacket, vest, neck gaiter, headband, arm warmers, two wool socks, and a lightweight down jacket. I ended up shipping those from Puerto Berrio (a port town that feeds to the Amazon – aka hot AF) to Bogota.

Zack: I think we were a bit over-packed, but we did have clothes for walking around town, so we had some experiences in the towns without being in kit. The water filter came in handy a few times… unfortunately. We lugged around those light down jackets and I carried a long-sleeve baselayer-type shirt for when it got "cold," but it never really got under 75, so we shipped those back when it was 110F at night in Puerto Berrio.


Okay.. You knew this was coming...here's the obligatory tire and gearing question. What'd you run? Anything you'd change for the next go round?

Whitney: The landscape there is wild – everything is straight up or straight down. I ran Shimano GRX Di2 with 48/31 chainrings and an 11-34 cassette. It really wasn't enough, and I ended up either grinding out stuff for ages or had to walk/wog the steepest stuff. For tires, I ran a WTB Vulpine tire that is still a secret – but I can say it is a fantastically fun tire. I can't wait for it to officially release, especially for some Colorado mountain adventure rides this summer.

If I return, I would want a wider range of gears and could go even bigger on the tires. Luckily the ENVE MOG takes up to 50s with 700c wheels. Despite a desire for bigger stuff, I had ZERO mechanicals the entire week, so I can't really complain just because I had to walk a few miles in total, ha!

Zack: We ran 45mm Vulpines. No tire issues, but I would have enjoyed a bit more cushion. We ran GRX with the smallest gear at a 31 front / 34 rear. We should have done what Griffin did with a 42 rear and just not had big-big or super-small gears with extra chain. The ENVE MOGs ran great, zero issues, but there was some stuff we walked that was really steep and loose we could have ridden with lighter gears. IF we did it again – leaning towards not – we'd have something like a 31 front, 42-46 rear, and 650b wheels with 2.1's.

Speaking of equipment, did you face any mechanical challenges out there and was there any "MacGyver-ing" involved to get rolling again?

Whitney: The closest thing to a mechanical I had was a HALO capsule that opened up on a descent and tainted my supplements. Peppermint krill melatonin anyone? Too tired to care.

Zack: I actually had zero real mechanicals, which is amazing. At one point, I had a buckle break on my seat pack, so it was loosey-goosey for a day, but I was able to harvest a buckle off of a different strap and make it work. Rather than fixing gear, we'd get done with a stage, do laundry in a dry bag with detergent we brought, clean bikes, lube chains, and drink a gallon of Electrolit while looking at the next day’s adventure.


Was there a particular song that got stuck in your head while you were out there? Will you ever listen to it again?

Whitney: Get It Girl by Saweetie and hell yeah!

Zack: I was blasting some Meatloaf in my head. When I needed Whitney to pick it up, I'd sing “Bat out of Hell” out loud, and she would go as fast as possible to get out of earshot as she is slightly less of a Meatloaf fan.

Speaking of music, does the event allow riders to wear headphones? If so, give us a rundown of your Transcordilleras playlist.

Whitney: I'm not normally a music person on rides, much less events, but I did play A Tribe Called Quest Radio and Today's Top Hits on Spotify on some of the longer, grindier climbs.

Zack: The "racing" aspect is pretty loose. If I wasn't mostly riding with Whit, I would have had headphones in a ton. We've been jamming out to this TTH (Today’s Top Hits) playlist recently. It's not always great but it seems like artists have hits in waves, and the playlist from a few weeks ago has been full of bangers. Dua Lipa, and Doja Cat top our list. There're also a lot of Mexican and Colombian artists on there. On some of the longer climbs, we'd just have a cell phone at max volume and play some tunes – at least until our phones died.


Describe your on-the-bike nutrition regimen. Would you make any adjustments to it for the next time? (Oh, sorry… too soon?) What about post race, off -the-bike nutrition?

Whitney: I found it really difficult to eat. It was likely a mix of the heat but also the fatigue. Carbs-per-hour goals kinda went out of the window, and my strategy changed to trying to eat 600-800 calories in any form that seemed palatable whenever I stopped, and then I supplemented that with whatever I bought along the way – usually bocadillos, a guava paste candy. At one point on stage 6, I was so in the red I was making bad safety decisions. I had to panic-stop and eat a full breakfast. I also drank an embarrassing amount of Coke.

Colombian food is simple but very well cooked and seasoned. Sounds like a perfect post-race meal, right?  Well, as soon as you finish, it's chore time and everything is urgent – eating, hotel check-in, bike cleaning, laundry, shower, any maintenance, prepping for the next day, any social media, and any semblance of recovery activities.

There would be a short window when food sounded good, and usually there was a pile of starchy carbs – rice, platanos (fried plantain patties), yuca, potatoes – with a small piece of meat or chicken. Eating in the evening would involve whatever sounded palatable, whether that was another meal, bigger snacks, or a giant milkshake. Chugging Electrolit before bed was non-negotiable, and my cravings were the three Ps: potatoes, protein, and popsicles.

Zack: Day one was great as we had FE product to start with. The pace wasn't really intense, so it wasn't like we would necessarily bonk from lack of carbs, it was just general depletion and heat as the biggest fatigue. We'd sort of look at the map and stop where we had to at stores to fill our packs with water and Electrolit – basically Pedialyte. 

The Coke, water, and Electrolit tienda stops were key. We'd also buy bocadillos, these delicious little guava candies wrapped in banana leaves that were the main ride food for the last few days. You can also just chuck the wrapper, as it's just a dried banana leaf, so no trash to carry.

With our frame bag, we could only fit 22oz bottles, and then my camelback was 1.5L and Whit's was 2L. I'd opt to have a different frame bag so I can fit a 1L bottle and def go for a 2L pack. It was sometimes 100F+ with slow climbing, so hydration and water was the hardest thing to come by.

Off the bike, there were plenty of snacks and dinner places, but it was hard sometimes to get really fast service. We'd get done with a hot stage and just hit the store for water and Electrolit first, then find food. Some of the days ended at a hotel restaurant where there was chicken and rice, but then finding water was trickier. The first few days were in more remote towns, so after the race we'd get what we needed from dinner and hydration and then get something for breakfast from the store – like juice and pastries, something we could slam fast so we could wake up as late as possible.


What's the one memory you'll take away from the 2024 Transcordilleras that you'll never forget?

Whitney: I didn't get to fully enjoy it because it was very fast and also very dangerous passing busses and dodging street dogs on paved roads that would turn into dirt; but I'm pretty sure at one point we descended out of a cloud and through a rainforest with cacao cafes.

Who knows, maybe I was dreaming.

Zack: The second day. We're chugging along, thinking it can't be as hard as stage 1. It's beautiful out, really nice climb to start (despite my bag buckle breaking straight away). We get over the first few climbs no problem, then down the hill to a tienda with about 27 miles to go.

Santiago, a friend we made, stopped with us at the store. As we're wrapping up or snacks he cheerfully says "only about three hours left guys!" I was thinking pffft 27 miles, not much climbing, I'm going to knock that out in less than two hours.

About two hours later, we have 10 miles to go on some of the roughest roads, I remember taking a fast, chunky descent at probably 16 miles-an-hour, feeling like a cat getting shaken around by a troubled kid, only to hit the massive bumpy rock cobbled roads of Charala. Whitney and I finished and looked at each other and said "this is going to be the hardest ride we've ever done.”

Do you plan to go back? And if so, what lessons did you learn from this year's edition that you'll take into your next edition?

Whitney: I think that this is a really difficult question. I went to the event as a substitute for a second training camp, and although I knew it would be long and hard, I didn't know it would be THAT long and hard. I actually enjoy the duration and intensity of the one-day gravel events in the US, but think that Transcordilleras was too long and too hard on my body/health to repeat. The first six days were 302 to 416TSS each day back-to-back. It stopped being fun for me and felt like a daily death march. I have no regrets over having the experience and am grateful for it, but it's not something I'm looking to repeat.

As someone who also puts on an event with a lot of hometown pride, it's an honor to see people's passions come alive, even if their passions are different from mine.

Zack: I think I'm more prepared to go back than Whitney. With some lighter gearing, 650b wheels with bigger tires, and the knowledge that the duo team category won't exist before the race starts so I can race my own race. (Or maybe they will actually have that category.) Then yeah, I could go back.

What question didn't we ask that we should have (and what's the answer?)

Whitney: Would you go back and ride in Colombia? Yes, I think so! This was my first experience in Colombia, and actually in South America. Now that I have a better understanding of what the terrain, weather, and culture are like, I could go back and have a very good training camp or adventure trip.

Zack: I think some of the most interesting stuff is asking about accommodations and how people deal with life between stages. Some guys did really well on stage 1 and then they just had nothing left to maintain their bike, mechanicals, laundry, recovery, food, etc. So on stage 3, you'd see a guy you thought was really fast but who never cleaned their kits or something, and they’d just be crawling or DNF because their eight-day bikepacking chores were the limiter, not their riding ability.

How to clean clothes, how to not get sick, how to actually do bike maintenance in a completely unsupported race – those are things that I think would be interesting to cover. Maybe not in a race report for Velo or CyclingNews, but those things are just as important as your ability to actually race each stage.

I think it's also really interesting how much Spanish everyone knows or doesn't know, and how. Griffin has like a degree or minor in Spanish history or something super cool like that, but I'm a solid middle school Spanish level. I think Whitney has really good Spanish and studies all the time, but is more shy in nature. Regardless, the Colombian people are so nice that we made it around easy enough.

March 14, 2024 — First Endurance

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