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.