Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Last ride of 09

Today was probably the last ride of 2009, unless I manage to sneak a ride before the rain that is forecasted for tomorrow, although I'm not feeling too confident at the moment. Ever since the snow storm of two weeks ago, I hadn't manage any physical activity worth mentioning, although the supreme leader and I started to walk in the mornings. Plan is to incorporate some core workouts to the routine once the new year arrives, but I'm not making any promises.

So Hains Point today with a balmy 28 degrees and a group of about 10. I have no dreams of hanging in the noon ride for quite some time, but man, what an eye opener when the speed went violently from a perfect 18mph to 24mph, my body just didn't want part of it. Two laps was all I could do before settling to finish the hour by myself. Good thing the Ipod came along to keep company, otherwise Dani would have ridden home by himself.

As the year ends, looking back, it was a fun one. Got to travel with the bike, despite having a pretty ugly crash, nothing was severly damaged, and overall, I am happy with the miles and form I had throughout the year. No pro contracts arrived at my door, but not like I was waiting for them anyway. Now looking to 2010, the goal is to just have fun. No set training routine, no races (although July is an important month) to worry about, just ride, stop somewhere for a Coke and enjoy the scenery. Anything else is icing on the cake.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's been a while

It's been a while since I wrote or rode my bike for that matter. The last time I swung a leg over the top tube was back on August second and since then I have just taken it easy. Well, not really. I, together with the "Supreme Leader" (the fiance), purchased a small townwhouse in Delray and have done nothing but spent money and done all the fun stuff that moving to a new house brings. But we are finally where we wanted to be, close to friends and more importantly, the bike trail.

Yesterday I finally gave in and even though I had a self impossed date to start riding again (Dec. 1, I couldn't pass the opportunity and so after calling Dani, we decided to head south to Mt. Vernon for an easy spin. It felt great to be back on th bike. The shoulder even though I took three months to rest it hurt half way through the ride and I am convinced now that I will ride with pain for the rest of my life. So be it.

A decision was reached during my hiatus and I will not be racing the local circuit next year. The only event I will probably take part in will be the Vuelta a Chiriqui Masters in July, if the event takes place. Other than that, I will do the usual rides on the weekends I don't work and ride at Hains Point the rest of the time. A trip out of state for some fun events may be added at the last minute, but no USCF sanctioned event are in my distant future. Things at work are not looking too promising for next year, so the hunt for a job has begun. Rumor has it that personnel may be downsized by the end of next, and I don't want to wait until zero hour to start the search.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: Travel Boxes

The first time I traveled with my bike was way back in 1993 when I went home for Christmas. Not knowing what to do (totally clueless), I showed up at the airport, bike in hand and upon entering the terminal, an American Airlines agent spotted me and as soon as I got to the counter, she already had this cardboard box waiting for me. $25 and some tape and I was on my way, oblivious to the fact that my wheels were not going to be round, ever again.

Learning from that mistake, I asked a friend on my second trip for his bike box. This thing was cumbersome at best to handle around the airport, and combine with my bag and carry on, it made for some fun times around ATL's ariport. Another drawback on the box was the fact that because its size, the airlines were like sharks waiting for you to enter the water and bite you with a hefty "bike fee" for flying your precious ride. Sure, you could check in at the curb and attempt to "brive" the agent there but if a supervisor was around, you were paying.

Two trips with the aforementioned box was all I could take and went back to the cardboard box from the local shop, adding some pipe insolation and foam to the frame for some extra cushion. The wheels went on as carry on, but even then, the flight attendants didn't want to share the precious space in the small coat closet with the sharp looking Campy bags and wheels.

That became my M.O. while traveling with the bike until two years ago when my good friend Chance, Sales, Product and Market Manager for Blue Bicycles visited DC. Knowing a little bit about bikes and travels, the crew over at the Norcross, GA based company came up with this handy bag and after watching Chance unpack and put his bike together and later on do the opposite, I was sold. A few days later one them puppies showed up at my front door and I was quick to put it to the test. It has enough padding to protect your bike from a nuclear explosion. Two large side "pockets" for your wheels, saddle, a handy small bag for maybe pedals, tools, a blue cover that according to the picture on the website is for the top tube, but I use to secure the rear deraillieur to the chainstay and a shoulder strap that lets you carry the thing as a doped gym bag. Packing the bike takes about 15 minutes once you figure out the procedure.

Chance advised me to just pack the bike, seat, pedals and the allen wrenches (#4 and #5), but I have never listened to his advise and on my first trip with the bag, I added a second set of wheels inside, which it handled with no problems. I have also thrown in my helmet, shoes, clothing and whatever last minute item was left behind and didn't fit in my carry on. Although airlines allow a bike bag/box with a total of 62in. (W+H+L), this bag is way over that and it's an easy target for the $100 each way charge airlines like to impose for bikes on flights within the US. But I think the charge is just a matter of luck. I have noticed that depending on the airline and agent at the moment you check in, you have a 50/50 chance that the bike may get onboard for free.

I just got back from Panama and again the bag proved to be the right tool for the job. And while there, I had a few adjustments made to it, by visiting a local upholestry shop, the bag was reduced by about 7 inches, still leaving plenty of space for everything but the extra set of wheels, but it looks smaller and the people at the airport didn't even bother to ask what was in it. Again, here Chance advises to gently explain to the airline personnel that you are carrying "aerospace-testing material" and he says it works. Give this "explanation" technique a try at your own risk.

If you are looking for a bag that will protect your bike, be easy to transport and better yet, store afterwards (three of my closest friends ordered theirs), give the guys at Blue a call and if you are traveling soon, get yourself one of them ASAP.

Monday, August 17, 2009


And not the kind where you get your equipment. This guy figured it out!!!


Saturday, August 15, 2009


So we flew back from Panama last night after a month of bikes, sun, and very, very good local food. Two weeks without the bike were also had and it was well spent by sitting on the hamac, eating coconut duros (look it up) and pretty much, following Sigberto's advise of not taking things too seriously when it comes to the bike and enjoy all things life.

Seems like I'm sort of a "ghost" back in the homeland because it's the second time while attempting to leave the country, legally, that the good folks at customs can't seem to find me in their records, even though I'm well documented. A call to a supervisor followed by another call to the supervisor's supervisor seemed to take care of things, but I'm starting to wonder what's going on down there.

While catching up with local blogs, there's a transition period going on, with people starting to think off season, cyclocross, mtb, track, etc. After the crash at the Dawgs Days of summer, I also started to think that it would be better to transition into less racing, and by that I mean, maybe two races next year. Don't get me wrong, I will continue to ride, show up at Hains Point and get totally killed, go with the groups on the weekend and pretend to hang on, but the racing will take a back seat. If the seventh edition of the Vuelta Masters a Chiriqui happens as I'm told it will, you can bet your paycheck I'll be making the trip south once again. But on the local circuit, I'm going to become a little bit of a ghostman.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Too much to handle

I took part on my last race while here in Panama, the Clasica Santiago Apostol Masters, where I got to race for the B-Loces team after having a good showing two weeks ago in the Vuelta a Chiriqui Masters. Seems the guys needed an extra pair of legs and made the call to see if I wanted to join their efforts. Their leader and winner of the Vuelta is leading the season long points competition and they added me to their squad for the event.

Problem is that the training in between the Vuelta and the Clasica didn't go according to plan. The beer drinking was kept to a bare minimum, but the distance and terrain used to train were not adequate, plus I wasn't really all into it mentally, but gave it the good old college try.

We arrived in Santiago on Friday and it was hot, as usual. Saturday morning my dad and I joined the locals for a 30 mile spin, just chatting and breaking a sweat. Afterwards we had coffee and fried tortillas (not the mexican type, but thick, fried tortillas, yummy). Since the entire town was celebrating the patron saint, the streets were jam packed with people from all over the country, so driving or just walking around was a task. My fiancee arrived from the US in the afternoon and the entire crew was now complete.

Sunday morning and in true panamanian style, the race started two hours late. I mean, why bother to keep a schedule, especially when waiting another two hours just means the temperature climbs about 50 degrees, or at least it seemed that way. The B,C and D categories started ahead of the A (30-39 yrs. old) and when we set off, the attacks came thick and fast from the gun. Forget warmup or settling into a race rhythm, the gloves were off before we clipped in and guys were going right, left and center trying to establish a break. About 5kms into the race and people were dropped already. I discovered a nasty saddle sore had creeped in the night before and trying to find the sweet spot on the saddle was becoming a hard thing to do. Add to that the attacks and pace and I wasn't enjoying my time too much. But I did keep working for the team, chasing breaks and pulling at the front to keep the pace high for a while. Finally, 4 guys went of the front and our team leader decided that would be the break of the day. 4 teams had riders in the group and we rode tempo for a little bit, letting a few of the stragglers catch back up.

Two guys sneaked off the front trying to bridge up to the leaders and I found myself with them, with the pack letting us go in no time. As we hit one of the few hills on the course, me pulling, both of my companions explained to me that they were tired and couldn't pull for much longer. We were about half way through the distance and I thought we would just ride and wait for the main pack to catch us. As I was thinking that, the two hooligans decided to attack me. The nerve!!!

They were gone in no time and now I was in no man's land, not knowing if I should continue or just wait. The saddle sore kept getting worse and the pack was no where to be found. As I made the turn around point, the 4 leaders had 3 minutes on me and the two chasers were about 1 minute infront. I gave it a try to catch back up but it was no good as the saddle sore had just gone on the attack too and now sitting down was just pretty much out of the question. The team car, driven by mom, comes up and she suggested that I would jump in the car, but I thought I could go all the way, so she drove ahead. Next thing I know, the main pack or the remains of it, who was 7 minutes behind me, comes from behind and I hop onboard. The guys keep a steady pace and I'm telling myself there's not much more to go, soon the pain will go away.

"mind over body", "mind over body" I kept saying, but my body was tired of hearing that crap and it finally shut down. My legs felt good, my lungs felt good, but I wasn't comfortable at all on the bike. Mom was waiting about 8kms from the finish and asked again what I was going to do. I think she hadn't finished the sentence when I was already off the bike, unclipped my helmet and called it a day. Once we got back in town, the mayor and congressman, both sponsors of the race, had hired a restaurant to feed all the racers and we had a good laugh after the day's event. The boys from B-Loces were happy with the work I did at the beginning of the race and invited me to join them again during next year's Vuelta. I can't wait.

Monday, July 20, 2009


It's always good to get to the start of the race early and for the last stage we got there with plenty of time in hand, at least three hours to be exact. That gave me a chance to sign on, check the standings, and find a nice place to park under a tree. At 9AM when the C category left, the temperature was alredy 86 degrees and the humidity was climbing steady. The weather report called for a hot day and it didn't dissapoint.

On yesterday's report I mentioned a rider who attacked through the feed zone while everyone was taking on water. One of his teammates and head honcho of the squad was interviewed on the radio and he said that the rider in question was kicked out of the team for "renegade behaviour" and more than likely he would be suspended by the national federation for the rest of the season. They do take their cycling serious down here and even though it just for fun, that type of actions will not be tolerated.

At 11:30AM what was left of the 47 riders who started the race on Friday took off under hot and humid conditions. Right before I left the safety of the shade where we parked, the radio announced the temps in the mid 90s with the humidity at a comfortable 100%. 8 laps of 9kms awaited us and as soon as the flag dropped, B-Loces went to the front and drilled it. That put several people in trouble right away and we hadn't even covered half of a lap.

The one and only hill on the circuit claimed its first victims and the pack was reduced to about 20 riders, with all the leaders in it. The pace and weather conditions were infernal again, and taking on water was a big priority. One thing though, water was shared between everyone which was a nice gesture since some riders didn't have teams or support.

On lap number three, a small group went off the front and on the approach to the hill, the rider who had won the first two stages and was the leader up until Saturday attacked to bridge the gap. I saw him attack on Saturday and once again I saw the guy stumped on the pedals with authority. He won the race last year and he wasn't going to go down without a fight. The yellow jersey did his best to defend but found himself isolated with only one teammate to help. Both guys did a super-human effort to close the gap, but not having enough riders to help was going to doom their efforts. At the front the group kept rolling through nicely gaining time as the second group became disorganize and we never got into a mindset of working together.

Did I mention the heat? If any of you out there ever decide to come to Panama and race (I highly recommend it) make sure you train hard, and in hot conditions. Better yet, make sure to have someone supplying you with water because otherwise it's going to be a rough ride. With two laps to go there was a crash, with three riders going down but everyone remounted. It was impressive to see the leader and his mate giving it all they had with no help, knowing full well that the lead was lost. When we got the final time check of 2+ minutes, it was just a matter of staying upright all the way to the finish. Of course it's a bike race and nobody just wanted to roll across the line, so the attacks began. Coming through the last 180 degree turn the talk was to let the up until then leader cross the line ahead of our group, but some knuckle head decided to attack the last 500meters. Not wanting to be left behind, I opened it on the right side and quickly found myself head to head with the King of the Mountains. This 120 lbs (soaked and wet) dude was more like Djamolidne Abdoujaparov, putting his head down and going all the way from the left to the right of the road, about a bike lenght infront of me, throwing his bike wildly. He wasn't aware that I had an 11 sprocket for today and when it engaged I went by him with full afterburners on. A nice smile from me as I flew by let him know that he was number one in my book.

13th place for the stage moved me up to 15th overall, finishing the race at 9:55 behind the leader. Shook hands with some new friends, was invited for the 10th time to attend the Vuelta Masters a Costa Rica in October and told the organizers that I would return next year, hopefully with a few friends tagging along. A great experience and a well put event, I'm already looking forward to 2010.

Next stop, a road race on August 2nd in the central part of the country. A lot flatter, but the heat and humidity will of course be out in force.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And the mountain came

The "queen" stage (#3) was the talk of town when we arrived in the City of David early Saturday morning. Team B-Loces had won both stages on Friday with Kervin Rooper and the squad was algo gunning for the "Metas Volantes" (Intermediate Sprints) competition, pretty big goals if you ask me, but the boys were ready and willing to inflict pain on the rest of the peloton.

The Vuelta has had very good organization and coverage (radio, newspaper and tv), and it feels like an event that will continue to grow. Signing your name every morning is pretty cool and you run into riders who are nice and stop you for a brief chat about the prior two stages and what is to come and if you are lucky, like me, a brief interview by one of the local radio stations covering the race.
Traffic however takes a little bit to get used to but the police keeps things in check. With a prompt start at 9AM we set off to cover the 98kms from David-Bagala-Caldera-Boquete. The organizers quickly got the action started by throwing the first intermediate sprint at kilometer 6, who needs a warmup.

The pack rolled together with B-Loces keeping a stronghold at the front of affairs and I was happy to once again tailgun it, chatting with riders and trying to spot my dad's car, which was #11 in the race caravan. Here's where riding as a "foreign" rider paid off and the organizers let my dad race to the front of the caravan as long as I was at the back to supply me with water and Gatorade. Everything remained status quo until we hit the small town of Gualaca and the start of the killer climb to Boquete. Since I was here back in December and did the route several times, I knew the last 36kms were uphill, gradually at first and the last 9kms were going to be difficult to say the least, but the stretch from Caldera (Oven) to the Boquete highway was my main concern since the road is bumpy and it's extremely hot, so I place myself behind the B-Loces team and waited for the fireworks to begin.

As the peloton approached one of the many feed zones (the heat is just out of this world), and everyone slowed down to take on fluids, a B-Loces rider went off the front and the rider in second place went with him. This cause a reaction from the leader's team and it wasn't a pleasant one, since their own rider set off the front with the rider that they had to keep an eye on. A furious chase took place and finally the renegade rider was caught and he got an earful from each member of the squad. The effort however zapped the energy of the team and left them pretty much outnumbered by the time we reach the Caldera Dam and at that point the attacks came, thick and fast.

Up and over the dam, the peloton was reduced to 15 riders, myself included, and the calls for "agua" were more frequent as the sun and the climb slowly kept eating at us. The Sansom team noticed that they had the numbers and up the pace a little more, finally dropping the last B-Loces domestiques and leaving their leader to fend for himself. On the approach to the Caldera Highway and the section I was fearing the most, the race leader attacked like a wounded lyon. I have witnessed attacks before but this was something else, and watching the race unfold infront of my own eyes was pretty exciting. 12 riders were able to go with the leader and I slowly crawled my way back to the front group, thanks to the encouragment of my daughters and parents who were in the "team car".

More and more "agua" calls from riders and the support cars were doing magic tricks to come up with full bottles of water as the riders struggled (counting included) up this tortous road. The leader sensing danger kicked again and I found myself off the back, but a steady tempo and some greeting of teeth got me back in the lead group a few meters later. As if it wasn't enough, the race leader kicked for a third time and this time I had to let the 10 or so group go up the road, but kept them at around 20 seconds for a few kilometers and then, we made the right turn onto Boquete's road and the last 9kms.

Death march is the best way to describe it as riders from the B and C Categories were littering the road, weaving and zig-zagging their way up. I was passed by a few A category riders, but kept a sustainable pace all the way to the top, and finished in 16th place, 6:33 behind the new leader, Alfredo Morales from team Sanson. That left me 16th overall at 7:11 behind going into the last stage on Sunday.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bienvenido a Panama

The day started early, and the rain finally let down after coming down all night. Good thing the race was about 25 miles south of my parents' house. On the drive there however, things took a rather strange turn when the main road to the City of David was blocked by residents of a small town that lost the water supply in the last few days. Welcome to Panama.

After some police intervention, the road was finally opened to the traffic and we made it to the start of the individual time trial with plenty of time. After about an hour of warming up and talking to several riders, who are under the impression that I can climb according to the word on the street, it was time to embark on the 5.9kms time trial. Panama is hot, but the City of David has to be one of the hottest places in the entire country. It was so hot the devil was under a mango tree seeking some refuge from the sun, that's how hot it was. I took off and quickly had the bike at 30mph and thought, "WTF is this!, I'm no TT rider". The local police department had officers covering every intersection and people were out cheering, but I was crossed eye and my lungs were burning by the time I made it to the turn around point and then the wind smacked me on the face. The return trip was probably the most pain I have ever felt on a bike, to the point that it took me a good 20 minutes to finally recover from the brutal effort.

Out of 47 riders in the A category (30-39 years old), I finished somewhere in the middle with a 8:33 time. The fact that several riders in full time trial gear finished only 10 to 20 faster than me gave good feelings for the second stage, a 61 mile trip from the City of David to the border with Costa Rica and back.

We set off for stage two under a nasty looking sky and it didn't take long for it to open with full force. It was raining so hard that it hurt getting pelted with the huge water drops, but according to my dad, it was a good thing that it rained and it "cool" things down. The first 30.5 miles were without much action since the B-Loces team (leader's team) set a nice tempo that dropped a few riders. But when we turned back the rain was not letting off and the attacks began left, right and center. B-Loces, Cubex and Sansom teams were sending riders off the front trying to make a break stick, but nothing looked too dangerous and the only thing that happened was that the pack was reduced to about 25 riders with the three teams aformentioned doing all the damage. The move of the day came from my mom and my daughters who handed me a bottle from the car as we were flying at about 40mph, in the rain.

My dad kept me telling what was coming up the road, but with 3kms to go, nobody was taking charge of the front and I was banking on the three teams that were showing the way to do their leadouts since they had the numbers, but it didn't happen that way, so I latched myself on the wheel of last year's Vuelta winner with 2kms and then all the festivities started with the sprint going in a zig-zag wave instead of a straight line. Getting a draft was difficult, so I launched myself off the right side, with four other guys and there were two groups of 4 each going side by side. When the dust settled the guy who won the tt in the morning picked up the stage, the guy I was trying to follow was second and I came in 10th.

Tomorrow is the "queen stage" and it finishes about 300 meters from my parents' house. It will be a dandy since the last 35kms is straight up. The weather again will play a role, so the plan is to stay near the front and see how the legs feel. I will do my best to post a report tomorrow night, but we have a party to attend, so it might be late.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Into the deep end

Arrived in Panama yesterday and somehow avoided the $100 charge for taking the bike on Continental Airlines. This time around, a better supervisor took care of me and got me in with no problems.

Today went out to check parts of stage three (Saturday) and ran into the Costa Rican contingent. Friendly bunch but everyone is keeping their cards close to their chests. And tonight was the team presentation. Never before have I gone to a race and had to shake hands with the UCI's ref!!!!. Each team went on the stage, each rider was introduced and one of the local tv stations did some interviews. I flew under the radar, picked my number, got the credentials for my dad's car so he can be my own "team car" in the caravan, way cool.

So, it looks about 60 riders in the category A race (30 to 39 years old), with some strong looking indivudals. Tomorrow morning at 8:30am we will set off on a 3.5 mile time trial, followed by a 60 mile road race and hour after the finish of the tt. Lets see how it goes, I feel good despite the crash on Sunday, so check back later on Friday night and see how the adventure is going.

Monday, July 13, 2009


If you haven't heard by now, I got a close look at the pavement right before the finish line at the Dawgs Days of Summer Circuit Race.

The day began with me getting lost on the way there. No GPS here, just good old memory and that got me a bit turned around, but a few turns and curse words and I was back on track in no time. While warming up with a few teammates, it was suggested that I should attack, but having spent the better part of the night before drinking beers at Dan's wedding, the thought of slugging myself wasn't a pleasant one and it was then that I found out the race was 30 minutes and not 60 as I had anticipated. Better read the instructions more carefully next time.

Off we go and is the usual parade of shaved legs guys going in circles, this time though, everyone was behaving through the turns. 2 laps into the "parade" and the lap counter says "9 to go". Soon after that a prime was offered and I gave it one of those, "why the hell not" type of tries, only to be bitch slapped by the headwind on the homestretch. A mental note was made.

Went into stealth mode tailgunning the pack for a few laps after my not so fruitful effort with the prime and decided that on the back side, with the wind at our backs, it was easier to move to the front on the inside, so with 5 laps to go I gave the theory a try and achieved positive results by easily gliding all the way to about 8th wheel. With 3 laps to go, there were still several riders in the pack with no real attacks taking off, other than the odd acceleration to nowhere that is quite popular in our category.

2 laps left and everyone decides to be at the front of the pack which was fine by me, the last 200m had a stiff headwind and I was confident the door would open for me to go through. Bell lap and as planned, I made my way towards the front of the bunch on the back side, having to ask a Coppi fellow to step to the side as his speed was going backwards as the rest of the pack's was increasing. Last right hander turn, there's some tension to my left but I'm still confident on the right side strategy. The speed is not top end because of the wind, but the front runners are winding it up. I sawa clearing and put the bike through it and then opened the throttle, full gas.

I'm thinking to myself at least a podium if not better as I'm reving the engine to full capacity, when all of the sudden, trouble infront of me. It's hard to recall but I believe two Latitude guys touched wheels, and one of them made an emergency landing in a spot where I would be in about 0.000000004 seconds. His bike skidded to my right and shot the only exit I had. He was rolling now onto my path and the ending wasn't going to be a pretty one.

Slow motion is great when you are watching sports on tv, but when you hit another fellow down racer at about 35mph (the last reading on my onboard computer), the effect is surreal. I grabbed two hands full of break, but the laws of physics have sealed my faith and the my front wheel hits the Latitude rider right around the mid chest area. Blurr is a good way to put it, because I don't remember how the bike and I got detached, what I do remember clearly is hitting the ground with my right shoulder and then the "thump" sound of my helmet made as my head impacted the road with force. I may have rolled, don't know for sure, but I ended up on my side, never blacking out, going dizzy or feeling funny. I scanned the road and spotted my bike about 10 feet away, three or four down bodies were joining me in the festivities and people were coming to offer aid. Jorge from Artemis picks my bike up as I sat on the curve to go over the damage. "Bike's fine" reported Jorge which was a good sign. My hip and shoulder had a burning sensation that I hadn't felt in about 8 years, and although they both were hurting, nothing was broken. A closer inspection of my helmet showed the two cracks and I was thankful I walked away from it with pretty much minor cuts and road rash. At least two of the other guys were taking to the hospital and I hope they are both OK.

This morning I'm stiff as hell, but thankful because it could have gone bad in a hurry. Going to the doctor in a bit to get things checked out and then will go for a spin tomorrow to see how I feel. Wednesday I'm flying to Panama and Friday is the first two stages of the Vuelta a Chiriqui-Masters. Costa Rica, Colombia, Belize, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Honduras and the locals are sending teams. I'm going at it "mercenary" style racing for my home province, but not really having a team to race with. It should be tons of fun especially the stage on Saturday which finishes about 300 meters from my parents' house. With yesterday's crash is going to be hard to tell how I will feel, but I will give it a "why the hell not" type of try.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Meanwhile, over at the tour...

Who would have thought that only after four stages, a good chunk of the contenders would be over 2 minutes behind on GC, and I got to be honest, having Big Tex sitting in second place, fractions of a second from yellow was not what I had predicted. Of course, is the Tour and predictions are worth nothing.

But talking to my friend Dave the other day, I did share this theory that I have. No matter what Astana is telling you via the media, things behind the scenes are not as good as they paint them to be. If you go back to stage 3 and the heavy crosswinds, two of Lance's henchmen (Zubeldia and Popovich) were at his side, every now and then sharing the workload at the front to increase the front group's lead. In the mayhem behind, Contador was left with Paulinho and Rass to drag him through the mess. Murayev is there because the sponsors wanted some local flavor and he will probably be used regardless who's leading the team. That leaves Levi and Kloden to freelance and hope for the best, since their form in three week tours can be a little iffy, especially Levi who's has gone balls to the wall since February. So a division for sure in a team that shouldn't have one. Tomorrow's stage to Andorra should clear the waters a little more, but both Contador and Armstrong are looking good and it might be a duel between the two of them at the end. Then again, is the tour and predcitions are pretty much worth nothing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


I took 10 days off at the end of May and headed to Houston minus the bike to spend time with the family. The trip and rest were planned at the beginning of the season, so I was looking forward to it despite the fact that at that moment, I was feeling pretty darn good. Upon return from the Lone Star state, I had a horrible week on the bike, having to push and fight the bike for at least six days, and then all of the sudden, my body flicked a switch and things were back to "normal", feeling good.

Fast forward to two weeks ago and again, I felt strong on the bike, and used the trip to Colorado as a final tuneup for the races this coming weekend and the big Vuelta back home in Panama starting on the 17th of July. Trouble is that the trip back from Denver to DC added to the 510 miles ridden during the six days in the mountains took a toll and I didn't get to ride until this past Thursday, when I by mistake, went to the "Italian Store" ride and got my ass handed to me. Not that getting my ass handed to me hasn't happened before, but the fact that in just four days without touching the bike I would feel like crap had me thinking.
One thing I have noticed this year is that I'm not worried about if I ride or not and so far it has paid dividends. And now, on my third day back on the bike, the sensations are slowly coming back. It's taking a bit longer, but if the rest that I took back in May is anything to go by, I hope that the switch will be flicked this coming Thursday, right before the weekend races.

On a different note, I have finally decided to boycott Versus coverage of the Tour de France, I just can't stand all the Lance coverage. Although it's a big story, and he surprised me with his tt ride today,the amount of time dedicated to him by the network is just out of this world. True, he made them millions once he started his winning streak, but enough is enough. So Eurosport on the interent will be my source for images until I get to Panama in a week's time where ESPN Espanol will then take over.

Monday, June 29, 2009

BTC-Day 6

Saturday was the last day of the 2009 Bicycle Tour of Colorado and the saved the best for last. That's if you consider 103 miles of headwind and Independence Pass (at just over 12,000 feet) fun.

The departure from Buena Vista was set for our grout at 7:30am, since the distance was going to take a while, but nobody prepared for the wind. Dad was quickly on his own, off the back and even my best attempt to bring him back were not enough, so he made the smart decision to get in the car and drive to the base of the climb. Dave, Teve and I continued on. It was probably toll of a week of hard riding, but my body wasn't feeling up to the task and once my mind began wondering, I knew things could deteriorate in a hurry, so I broke the ride down in parts.

Trying to drag dad back to the group

First part was to make it to the first rest stop, but that took longer than I thought, because of the aforementioned head wind. A quick stop to have some watermelon, PB&J sandwiches and water and off we went again, this time just me and Dave, since Teve had flatted a while back.

Rolling through the valley, Independence Pass looked mighty and the trees gave us a little break from the wind, but the gradient then took over to continue the punishment. As cars, motorcycles and U-Haul trucks passed us, their size became smaller and smaller the higher they went, and looking up to see the road carve the mountain would send chills down my spine.

Independence Pass

About two hours later, and with a heavy dose of Safri Duo and AC/DC blarring from the Ipod, I conquered Independece Pass for the second time. The snow was still at the top, although it was dirty. No time to snap pictures or hang around to see the view, the weather was cold and I still had another 60 miles to go. The descend was what I later described as a "Moto GP", leaning the bike, counterbalancing on the outside pedals and letting the thing rip dowhill. Some sections of the road went from two to one lane and traffic coming up the mountain could give you a scare if not careful.

After a while of those downhill shananigans, the third and last aid station gloomed and I took the chance to have my last few watermelons slices. One of the ladies working at the aid station said, "it's only 46 miles to Glenwood Springs and it's all downhill". I was in no mood for jokes, and despite the fact that the gradient was all downhill as she said, the headwind had made a return and it was going to bitch slap me all the way to Glenwood Springs.

Getting tossed around by a headwind

Six hours and 17 minutes later, I rolled into Glenwood Springs and the elementary school where a week before we had started our tour. I was feeling pretty good despite the time spent on the saddle and knowing that Wendy's was just next door kept a smile on my face.

Long day on the saddle

Now two days off to recover from flight and a week of easy riding. The Vuelta a Chiriqui-Masters is just three weeks away and I hope all the riding in the mountains pays off then.

Friday, June 26, 2009

BTC-Day 5

Left Gunnison after a day off under a cloudy sky. A storm was brewing high in the mountains and the thought was in the back of our heads for most of the day. I met my friend Dave in Almont, after a nice 10 mile warmup. Dad and Teve got a hour advantage and were already starting the first climb of the day.

Getting the techno music ready on the Ipod for the climb

Dave and I set a nice tempo, but the temperature didn't seem to be warming up, even though the sun was out and we were climbing. We decided to skip the first aid station and went straight to the second one and it was packed. No time to sit around since the sky was getting darker by the minute and we had a 14 mile climb on a dirt road up to Cottonwood Pass, at a nice 12,326 feet. Good thing mom was driving the "team car" and I picked up my knee warmers.

Somewhere up there is Cottonwood Pass, 12,326 feet

Up we went passing people all the way to the top and as the summit was getting closer, the temperatures kept going down and the storm was moving ever so close. I made a quick stop to put on my jacket, made it to the third aid station, got some PB&J sandwiches and some watermelon, put on a hat, long finger gloves, knee warmers and proceeded to head down the hill. Dave decided to call it a day at the top and dad and Teve were still somewhere up the climb.

This was a true TDF descend, switchbacks, not traffic and a smooth road. The wind was creating a bit of a problem at the top, but once I got the lines figured out I just hunched over the bars and let the Tarmac fly. It had to be the most fun so far during the tour, going down fast, 53.7 mph for the top speed. Once I reached Buena Vista, I found an old gas station and waited for the rest of the "team", and waited, and then waited some more.

Max speed

Still waiting for the other three members of our group, the sky finally openend up and the downpour was strong with the temperatures also going south. I could see riders coming down the mountain shaking from the cold and soaked. A guy stopped where I was and he couldn't even talk, heck, he probably didn't even know where he was. After a few minutes he came back to life, but he was still shaking and we figured out which way he had to go to his hotel. Poor guy.

Finally the suburban came down the mountain with Dave at the wheel, dad on the passenger seat and mom and Mrs. Botacio in the back seat, but Teve was missing. The story I got was that Dave had found a place in one of the shuttle vans that was coming down the mountain and just as the van was about to head down, a gentleman brought Teve, who was freezing. Dave saw him and called his name, and Teve was in such bad shape that be broke down and started to cry, hugging Dave at the same time. Dave gave up his seat so he could make it down the mountain first, and as luck would have it, mom and the suburban were not far behind, so he got in and got warmed too. They turned around and picked dad up just before the top, as the hail, fog and high winds were causing havoc.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BTC-Day 4

66 miles to Gunnison. The actual distance was 93 miles up to Crested Butte, but our hotel was in Gunnison, so why bother suffering another 27miles and then having to turn around and head back down. It turned out to be a smart choice.

We were greeted once again by a strong, and by that I mean, 9mph going downhill headwind for the first part of the ride. It was just brutal in every sense of the word. A line of riders snaked up the road as far as the eye could see, each fighting his/her own battle with the elements and the mind. The thought of getting off the bike crossed my mind once, but then I decided to play a new game, "guess the wind speed". My friend David came up with 25mph gusting up to 30mph and I believed him.

My friend Dave and I enjoying the ride

Once we hit the first proper climb, the wind died down and I settled into a nice rhythm and spent the best part of the next 42 minutes going up, passing people and giving some encouragement to those who needed. Again, the Colorado State Patrol made sure that no 18 wheelers, campers or cars got to close for comfort and it was appreciated.

Today's dowhill sections were more to my liking, and I'm very happy with my new Descente Bobby J jacket, the thing is worth every penny. Retails for $200, but I picked it up at PricePoint for $85, shipping included. It's waterproof, but I don't want to test that part of the jacket. It did keep me warm and if there's something to say negative about it is that taking it off while on the bike is not recommended, at least that would be my advise.

Here are some pics of the week so far.

The Panamanian clan (dad, me and Teve)

Our pack going downhill

Dave and Teve after a good day on the saddle

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BTC-Day 3

Today was the "flatish" day of the tour, climbing only to just under 6,000 feet. And it wasn't an easy day at all, because of a nasty head wind. But, for once, the wind gods smiled upon us and with 20 miles to go (63 for the day), the wind shifted and we had a cross-tail wind all the way into Montrose. The hammer was dropped and my friend Dave and I did a team time trial.

Tomorrow's route is another epic climbing day, going to Crested Butte. We are not planning on making it there since our hotel is in Gunnison, so we will try to ride hard for 66 miles. Spirits are good and the bunch is having a great time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

BTC-Day 2

Climbed 29 miles straight up to just under 11,000 feet. The descend was something else, the wind was kicking my ass and handling the bike was quite tricky. A girl got hit by a wind gust and she will not be finishing the tour. Felt pretty damn good, but holy shit, the climb took about 2 hours. Still, is good training for the upcoming Vuelta back home. Going for pizza!!!!!.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bicycle Tour of Colorado-Day#1

Made it to Denver onboard Continental Airlines, and what a bad experience that was. The lady at the counter made me pay $100 for my bike, even though the bike bag was 27 pounds under the weight limit, but 4 inches over the size. $100 for 4 inches!!!!.

This is my third time at the Bicycle Tour of Colorado and the organizers have done another superb job with every detail. Picking up the registration package was a breeze, the support is second to none, and the route so far, stunning. We (my dad, three friends and myself) climbed up to 8700+ feet, over McClure pass and covered the 79 miles in under 5 hours (we were taking it easy since it's only the first day of six). Tomorrow is 91 miles and a climb just under 11,000 feet. Weather is good and there are a ton of people riding. Feeling good and having fun, lets hope that trend continues.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Inflation and Deflation

Just a quick note on my "pit stop" repair equipment. A very, very long time ago, I used to carry a Blackburn hand pump to inflate my tires after a flat, but as technology evolved and CO2 became available, I switched and never looked back. Usually stuffed in a handy zip-locked baggy, is a spare tube, one cartridge of CO2 with its adaptor, and two tire levers. Brand is not really important, as with all things cycling, if it's on sale, it's good enough for me.

Changing gears now, I'm beginning a 12 day rest (cycling deflation) period as of right now. I shouldn't be even typing this post since it's all about resting and having nothing to do with the bike, but then again I still have 11 hours ahead of me at work before I can really declare my vacation, which will be spent in of all places, Houston, Texas. Some pool time, good bbq and time with my daughters will be on my schedule.

Upon returning from Houston, five days of riding before Murad and the expectations now that the race date was changed went out the window. The form was great but now the race priority has declined a bit. Following Murad will be a trip to Colorado for the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, a good week of hard riding in the mountains should set me up perfectly for the assault to the Vuelta a Chiriqui-Masters, in mid July.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

War of attrition.

I never looked forward to racing in a field of 100+ riders, and to be honest, I was really hoping that for once the weather forecast was right and the rain would come in buckets, thus giving me a good reason to stay home and not race Bike Jam. It didn't happen.

At 9AM Jose Nunez checks in and gives me an earful for being in bed. Then Dan Dumwright texts to see if I'm going, after all, he wad riding with me. No other choice was left other than to get up and get my arse into gear. Dan met me at the house and off we went.

Upon arriving, we got our packs at the registration tent, checked the surroundings and talked to a few friends, then watched the 2/3. After their effort, a couple of our teammates came by and gave us some words of advice, the usual stuff, "stay at the front", "watch the S turn, go on the grass if possible", this and that. A good warmup followed and then we saw the last few laps of the pros.

The race itself was a war of attrition, and it pretty much turned out to be like the race last year. Fast at the beginning and middle parts, thinning the group considerably. But the advice given earlier wasn't working for me. It's one thing when you are the one inside the barriers doing the navigating. Nonetheless, I felt pretty comfortable and the guys from the team were mixing it at the front, while I was trying to conserve some energy. That was until the dude from HPC, who had gone off road earlier, aimed at my front wheel. Close call, an exchange of selected words and he was out of my way. Positioning continues to be a work in project, but I was happy with 16th, which gives me a good vibe for Murad and then my goal in July.

The funny moment of the day was when Dan attacked, went off the front and the announcer calls my name. I'm at the back thinking, "Dan and I got our numbers switched back at the car."

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's on!!

Second time I'll get to race on my native land, and this time it will get ugly.
My dad had told me about the Vuelta and it happens to coincide with my trip to Panama to visit them. The next few weeks will be tailored to get the body in the best possible shape. The mind is already racing though!!.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Dark Place

Michael Jordan once said he used to go into a "zone" when he was on top of his game. The opposite side of the "zone" is the "pain locker", not exactly a happy place. But over this past weekend, while at the Raw Talent Ranch, I discovered the "dark place", where ghosts take over your mind and your body is just going through the motions.

The team had the annual training camp and about 18 of us made the trip over to West Virginia. Upon arrival on Friday, Jay Moglia had us out on the road, doing a 40miler, leg opener, but towards the last climb, it became a leg breaker, with a good portion of the boys choosing to dismount and push their rigs (myself included).

Saturday's "death march" will stay with me for a long time. I have gone into the pain locker more times that I can remember, and usually come out of it not too damaged, but Saturday I dove straight into the "dark place" and at one point I thought things were just getting out of control. After two climbs, I was feeling OK and thought tackling the last 7 mile ascend back to the Ranch was a possibility, but a mix of a banana and coke put end to any thoughts of finishing and opened the door to the place I will hope, never to visit again.

Combine with the heat, the hills, a stomach that wasn't functioning at all, things quickly went pearshape and I lost contact with my group. I think it was 3 miles into the climb when my mind switched. No longer was the techno music playing on my Ipod doing its usual trick, my legs were not going to turn anymore, so I unclipped, walked a bit and remounted. Another 100 yards farther up the mountain, I put my foot down again, this time sitting on the side of the road. My group had decided that the first one back at the ranch would drive back down to look for "victims", so the thought of just waiting kept me sitting for a little longer. The view was great from my position, but something kept telling me to push, not my legs, they were by now cursing me in both english and spanish. I swung the leg over the top tube once again, felt a cramp, but headed up anyway, and next thing I know I was laughing, for no apparent reason, my situation was no joke, however I was laughing. The following switchback brought me to a complete stop and I got off the bike once and for all. A nice shadowy spot was my last resting place on that infamous climb. After a wait of about 20 minutes, the car showed up, I loaded the bike and was taken back to the barn.

A meal later, I was feeling half human again, and I believe going to the pain locker will be no big deal from now on, even eating a slice or two of humble pie I can handle, but the "dark place", there, I don't want to go again. Rest today and tomorrow will see how things feel. It will be either Hains Point or the Eisenhower ride.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Solar Powered!

Over the years, I have learned that my body must be solar powered. During the winters months I struggle and suffer, sometimes in silence, sometimes bitching to whoever is riding next or ahead of me, usually Jose or Dani, but once the sun comes out and I shed about 15 lbs. of clothing, things turn for the best.

That was the case on Saturday at Syn-Fit. Like most people who went, the registration process was something to marvel. I think I held the line just because I couldn't believe how quick the process was. Kudos to the organizers. And after a nice warm up with my teammate, we lined up for the cat4 race.

Race is not what I would define the event as, it was more of parade of 22 laps, with the odd interval thrown in there to break a sweat. The boys from Bike Rack reedmed themselves this time and had things lined up which actually looked pretty good. But since I had spent the most part of the race in la-la land, by the time I snapped into action and realized there were two laps to go, I was out of contention.

The pack finish wasn't something I was happy about and there was only one way to fix it. My teammate kept telling me how much he had left in the tank and I thought my tank was pretty much full too, so I spent the time in between races telling myself to at least be active in the Masters 35+ 4/5.

Because of the "issue" with the Masters 50 race before us, we had a late start and my body had gone into shut down mode while standing at the line. Once we were off, the first lap was nothing to be excited about, so I took off through the start/finish and got my heart rate up. Now I was ready.

The race (this was one) was aggressive, and I stayed towards the front, covering breaks and trying to be active. With 8 laps to go, I settled into top 10 and the pace was high enough that I didn't have to fight for position, which was good for everyone. With one to go, I believe it was Whole Wheel Velo singled the file the group and opened a gap, that I tried to close, eventually latching on going into the last corner. I took shelter behind a Colavita rider and tried to come around him at the end, but I was pretty much done. 8th place, just outside the money, what a bastard!.

I left feeling good, I rode the first race like I would have in years past, then change my mind set and went on the offensive on the second one, leaving nothing in the tank, which is one of my goals for the year. The sun was out and the motor was running just fine, a perfect day out.

Take a look at this and you be the judge, was it deliverate?

Monday, April 6, 2009


That's what I'm doing at the moment, well actually, I'm typing, but I spent the best part of the day reading about Walkersville and Tyson's. And the reason I'm reading is because I'm sitting half way accross the world, on the banks of the Bospherous straight, Istanbul, Turkey to be exact. And why am I here?. Not to cover the upcoming Presidential Tour of Turkey (the bike race), I'm here because of the Alliance of Civilazations meeting and the stop of Pres. Obama in country.

But by the sounds of it, Walkersville would have kicked me on the butt with the wind and Tyson's, I never got on the starting list, so not much was lost. What's quickly going away is whatever form I had. Things were going just fine on that department until the trip over here. All I have done since arriving last Saturday is drink Efes beer, eat at the local kobobs place (if ever here, check out Durumce, fantastic stuff and cheap), check out the sites and well, some work. I did manage to catch the Tour of Flanders live on Eurosport. No Bob Roll here, just hard racing and good commentating. Should be back stateside by Saturday night and the plan is to join the bunch on the 8:30am ride, jetlag and all.

P.S. Matt, I hope you get recover from the crash at Tyson's very soon.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gamjams Review-Cleaners and Degreasers

"I may not be fast, but I do look good and so does my bike". That's my motto and to keep the bike looking good all the time, my routine has worked pretty good. In fact, Jose Nunez has liked it so much, his bike spends quality time during the season at my house getting, "pretty".

It all begins with a bucket of warm water and dish soap, a couple of brushes, garden hose, some rags (old t-shirts), degreaser (Performance brand does it for me.) and three or four paper towls. Wash the bike with low pressure from the hose. Although my dad, an avid bike mechanic advises against it, over the years it has worked well. Degrease the chain and then brush it really good. Rinse. Dry the frame with a clean rag and use a different one for the chain. Pedro's Bike Lust goes next on the frame for that shiny look. Once the chain has dried, use the papertowls to get it as clean as possible. Lube and finally with another clean rag, give the chain a few last wipes.

The above procedure is done once or twice a month, depending on how much rain we get. During the week, a couple of quick runs with a rag keep the bike looking clean. It really doesn't take that much time, and it sure makes the bike feel fast, at least that's what I say. "A clean bike, a fast bike".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Improving My Racing

As you may have noticed on the poll (to your right), the question this week is "Improving Your Racing". Once again I want to remind you, dear reader, that I'm not into all the techie-telemetry stuff out there when it comes to training. My method is more old school, where my own personal and humble believe is that if I ride, and ride, and ride some more, the form will eventually come. And I try to keep my "hobby" as fun as I can, because after all, that's what it is and I don't get paid to ride.

That said, every season I like to take a few steps up and progress. One area I would like to improve this year is racing a little more aggressive, and having more mental strength when it comes to getting involved in the race. Many times I have found myself just going through a race without much of a plan and finish events with plenty of gas in the tank. Crit racing is probably where I look to improve the most, since I'm apprehensive at times at going all out.

Hopefully the solution is to keep telling myself to just go for it. Also, having joined a bigger team will help, because having more teammates will for sure push me to give more. And last, the new bike is starting to feel like a glove, which makes handling it in a pack a little easier.

So, your turn now, check the poll, see what you think and leave your comments.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Race time

I registered yesterday for Walkersville, Masters 35+ 4/5. Last year I had a good time at this race and I'm looking forward to a repeat this year. As long as the weather warms up a few more degrees, I should be fine. Last week I picked my new bike.

You be the judge. It's a nice ride, and I spent two days tweaking a few adjustments made during my fitting at Arrow Bicycle. Chris M. and Chris D. took care of me and I feel 90% better on the bike compared to last year. Some drastic changes were made, but so far, I like how everything feels and the way the Specialized feels. You will spot a few more of my teammates on their new rigs at your local ride/race.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hit and miss

That's what I would call my "winter training" so far, just a series of hits and misses. So far I think I have ridden less miles than in years past, but one thing I'm noticing at the moment is that I seem not to either worry or care too much about it and I'll take that as a positive sign. If you have stopped by the blog every now and then, you have probably noticed that I'm not a fan of the trainer, AT ALL!!. You can pretty much bet your last dollar that I will not touch that thing if I can help it. And just to make sure I stay true to my goal of not "training" on the torture machine, I took it to Dani's house the other day and left it there. And that my friends, felt really good.

So as I said, aside from getting bitch slapped at the 10AM rides on Saturdays and hanging with the B group on the Bike Place ride every now and then on Sundays, this winter has been pretty much missing some action. And speaking of action, my bosses at work have come up with the great idea of changing our work schedule, from 3.5 days a week to something called, fortnight schedule. An idea from the british I'm told and not very well liked by the populous in my department. It means that now we have to work every other weekend, and of course, the first thing I thought of was what impact that would have on my riding pleasure. The funny thing is that my crew will work 77 hours in a two week period, yet the bosses will pay them the extra three hours needed to complete the full 80 hours. Someone didn't run the numbers right, me thinks. But back to the cycling affected part of the schedule, it appears that once time changes, I will be able to sneak the 7AM on Sats and the Bike Place ride on Sunds, before hauling my butt to the office on the weekends I have to render my services. Yesterday I worked a racing schedule and it seems like I could make a total of 12 races already listed on the MABRA calendar.

After I was done complaining about the change, I refocused on making sure to make those races count. I can lend a hand to my new teammates and help lay down the law, ensuring our designated leader gets the support needed. And who knows, maybe I can sneak a result or three out of the whole deal. As they say, we shall see. The new team kit arrived and it looks killer, and the rest of the toys should be here by the end of the month. Just in time for spring.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Beginning

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! ya'll. I finally finished jetsetting around the world, after an intense travel scheduled the last six weeks. The bike saw a little bit of action during that time but saddly I no longer have my Specialized Tarmac (Lucinda, as I afectionated called it). It made the trip to Panama, got me some good times, and a doctor who saw it liked it so much, he bought it. But not only did the bike stay behind, so did both of my helmets and all but one of my kits. So if you see me now, I'm riding my old trusty aluminum bike or "the tank" for the next two months or so.

For 2009, I will be riding under the colors of Route 1 Velo and hopefully I can be of help to the guys. The firepower in the team's roster is impressive already and I will do my best to lend a hand to the guys this year. Having my buddy Jose in the ranks is important, since we pretty much train together and travel to races all the time. I know most of the guys already and after the first team ride, I felt pretty much at home. Now it's just a matter of piling the miles and getting myself ready.

Today I went over to Hains Point with Dani for the traditional Jan. 1 ride at the park. After a night where some Corona's were consumed and good food was eaten (courtesy of Dani and his wife), my main concern was the cold temperatures. And it was damn cold, but we saw lots of people out riding. We did about an hour and a half and bolted back to Dani's to finish the leftovers. Good times on and off the bike.