The first time admittedly was tough. And the second?
“It was suffering from the get-go,” Camilo Villegas says.
With those words came a smile of satisfaction, though. After all, the uber-fit Villegas enjoys testing his limits – and that’s exactly what he did that day when he rode with countryman Santiago Botero.
Botero is a former professional cyclist from Colombia who has competed in the Tour de France three times – even winning a stage and donning the famous polka dot jersey for capturing its mountains classification in 2000. Botero represented his country in the Olympic Games four years later, too, the same year Villegas became a golf pro.
Villegas was home in Medellin that day and had called a friend to see if he wanted to join him for a ride. His buddy showed up with Botero, the former individual time trial world champion who has since become one of Villegas’ close friends.
Suffice it to say their ride that day in 2007 was a bit more challenging than the 37-mile climb up the hill behind his home that Villegas took the first time he got on a bike. And he absolutely loved it.
The passion born that day has continued. In fact, Villegas – who has inspirational tattoos saying “Attitude” and “Positive Energy” on his right and left wrists, respectively -- has been known to say that he has “obsessive cycling disorder.”
When Villegas got back to his home in Jupiter, Florida, after those initial rides, he bought a bike. He doesn’t take it with him to tournaments – Villegas does spin classes and elliptical and cardio to stay in shape – but his off weeks are a different story.
When the Colombian is at home in the Sunshine State, he usually rides five times a week. Tuesday and Thursdays, he bikes about 35-40 miles per day. The weekend when most of us rest are his big days – he’ll ride about 75 miles on Saturday and 60 or so on Sunday.
Villegas’ longest ride? Well, he estimates that was 130 miles. And how long does it take?
“It all depends,” he says. “You do the math. If you’re going solo and average about 22, 23 miles an hour. If I'm going with a group, the group gets rolling around 26, 29, 30.
“If you go to Colombia, it's going to take a longer time. If you go in Florida, it's going to be a lot faster because it's flat.”
A ride that long, though, certainly isn’t the norm. Get close to 100 miles in a day and Villegas says your day is basically over.
“You don’t have energy to do much more,” he explains. And fatigue certainly doesn’t help Villegas’ golf game.
The 36-year-old Colombian, who earned a degree in business from the University of Florida, is one of the most fit players on the PGA TOUR. Cycling is just one part of his workout, though.
“You've got to mix it with a lot of things,” he says. “Obviously, when you start cycling so much, you're going to get a pretty tight IT band and hamstrings and stuff. You have got to balance it out.
“When I'm on the road, obviously, I do weights and a lot of explosive stuff and I do a lot of stretching and mobility. No, it's my peaceful spot, but the workout portion of golf-related stuff is another thing.”
Villegas has developed a tight circle of friends who ride – both in Jupiter and his childhood home -- many of whom are professional cyclers. He’s never ridden with Paul Casey, a TOUR player who rides seriously, but they talk about the sport frequently and he plans a trip to the Italian Alps in 2018 that is similar to the one that the Brit took several years ago.
No matter where he rides, though, Villegas enjoys the experience. The physical factor is obviously a part of it but he also finds a mental benefit to the journey.
“It kind of keeps me in balance just because it's a quiet spot,” Villegas explains. “We come out here, there's a lot going on. I go home, I have family and friends, a little more social life.
“When I hop on the bike, I just try to follow a wheel or make the boys follow my wheel. There's a lot going on, but it's a quiet spot.”