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.