Friday, July 30, 2010

7th Vuelta Masters International to Chiriqui

It started yesterday with a short (5.6km) prologue. Fitting the bike with aero wheels and aero bars didn't help much and I posted 8:14, 1:18 slower than the stage's winner.
Later that afternoon, we were to face 53 miles, from the city of David to the border with Costa Rica and back. Although the race book stated that it was "flat", the race was a series of rollers throughout the entire distance. The A category (the Vuelta is based on age, 30 to 38 years young is the A, 39 to 48 is the B, C category runs from 49 to 58 and the whippersnappers of the D from 59 and up) lined up last and we had to wait under a blazzing sun for a good 30 minutes before the flag was dropped and we were on our way. Right away attacks came but soon the group of 57 riders settled into a blistering pace. Once again this year, water was the main concern and keeping the bottles full was the job of the follow cars and motorcycles. Consumption was at a high due to the hot temperatures, but I was managing good handouts from the car driven by mom.
Nothing exacting happened until the turn around point when the A cat caught the B and things got really crazy with both groups attacking. The chief ref and his group was having a rough time controlling things, and racing on the Panamerican Highway made things a tad more complicated, but soon order returned and the B guys were made to slow down and a second ref car was placed in front until the A group had a reasonable distance. People were dropping and I started to cramp a little, but nursed the right leg all the way to the finish and crossed the line with the lead group.

Today's festivites took us up from 152 feet above sea level to 3200 in 56 miles. Again it was hot and drinking was the order of the day, with mom again making sure I always had two full bottles. As soon as the group hit the gas for the first intermediate sprint, riders were dropping right, left and center. I had done the stage's route several times, but the speed during the race didn't even come close to my speed riding solo. Still, I was feeling pretty good.
Second intermediate sprint and up we went. Again, gaps were happening and the yellow jersey team was impossing a fearless pace at the front. The first serious hill appeared and I managed to get over it without suffering too badly. Rejoined the main group and waited for the second hill. This is were the damage started and I was in a bit of trouble for a few minutes, but kept a cool head and rejoined a second time. But not soon had I latched myself to the back that the leader decided to set things right and even the Costa Rican climbers were struggling. I was off on my own after that, having to face the last and harder, 7kms on a bumpy road. The only good thing was there were plenty of people cheering and the temperature went down. I crossed the line with two guys from the Momi team and one from the Sansom team, a good 6:22 back. But checking the results, I moved up from 31st overall to 26spot.

A 13 mile time trial is on the agenda for tomorrow and I'm feeling a little more confident about it. We shall see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spoke too soon

Right when I thought things were falling into place, I had a severe case of allergies. The humidity here is pretty high, and it rains constantly. I remember growing up having all kinds of issues with my sinuses. But over the last 24 hours it came back in style. Funny enough the only time of the day it doesn't bother me is when I'm riding.

Speaking of riding, today was a mediocre day. I took the bike out to test the time trial setup and went semi hard and felt pretty good. The position was comfortable enough but I was sensing that something was wrong. My heart rate was jumping up and down and not staying in one particular zone. Maybe it was the big breakfast or maybe the allergies played a roll. Whatever it was, it made the return trip not a fun one.

Tomorrow is my last long training ride. I have to travel on Friday and will not be back until mid day Monday, so tomorrow will be the one and final checkup to see how things are. After that, Monday will be a short stroll (weather permitting) followed by 2 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday and then the start of the Vuelta.

Monday, July 19, 2010


After 20 days in Boquete (in the mountains in western Panama), I can say that the riding and preparations for the upcoming vuelta could not have gone any better. The perfect equation, with hard miles, long climbs, plenty of rest and most importantly, good food.

My dad has this nasty 20 mile loop that has about 200 meters of flat roads. The rest of the time you are either going up or down, but mostly, up. Since the country is in the middle of "winter" or wet season, it rains constantly, sometimes 11 hours straight.

Yesterday I did the route of the third stage and it proved to be an eye opener. Last year's event used the same route, but this year, and thanks to them for doing it, the organizers have taken the last 6kms up to Boquete off the route. Citing dangerous conditions on the roads (drivers tend to get too close for comfort), the stage was shorten. If you ask me, some of the locals suffered badly last year and can do without those dreaded 6kms. But, that doesn't make the stage any easier. It begins in the city of David, which according to Google Earth, sits roughly at about 150 feet from sea level. From there, the route will take the four different master categories east, towards the small town of Gualaca, where the flattish roads will end the proper climb begins. Eventually, the race will climb over the Chiriqui Dam and head north in the direction of Caldera (Furnace). That's where the race will heat up, once over the damn. And then, and hopefully I will still be around, the final 7 kms towards the finish. By then we have had gone from 150 feet above sea level, to an uncomfortable 2204 feet in the spand of about 62 kms. All fun and games.

If I'm not too shattered, I hope to write some and post some pics...this year's race has grown with riders from US, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina and the locals taken part. Radio and TV will have coverage and the newspapers will give it plenty of column space. So 9 more days to go. The next two will be a test of the time trial setup, a final two days of climbing and then off to Panama City to pick up my fiancee and friend who's coming to race from Texas.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Road Race, Panama style

A brief report on the race today in was 47 miles, up and customary, it started late...plan was to start at 9am but of course, things run in a different time frame here...and with the delay, the temperature and humidity climbed...

The Masters A category (30-38) had about 25 starters...once the flag dropped, attacks started right, left and center...stupid if you ask me, since they were going nowhere...after about 30 minutes of non stop attacking and me avoiding a dog that almost ran in the middle of the pack, a group finally went hard up a hill on a counter attack and I latched onto it...that was the race's main break...10 of us rode away with Recogo Sanson team putting three guys at the front and drilling the pace...once we turned around at the half way point, the temperature read 35Celsius and the humidity had to be about 300...drink, drink, drink...
On the approach to the Santa Rita climb, the attacks went thick and fast...not wanting to burn my matches, I set a pace that I could carry up the 2km hill and settled in, letting 8 guys go...two of them were later dropped and I caught them and worked together with them to catch back to the front group...
Nothing much happened until the Avejones hill, but by then everyone was pretty cooked and the pace was more reasonable, although I used the 39 while the locals were engaged in the 53....those fools...towards the top the pace was increased but I hung in there and then did little work, recovered and was hoping for a sprint...
With 15kms to go, there were only 6 of us left, with two Recogo Sanson guys pulling...they were happy to do the work and I was happy to let them do it...we were passing riders from other categories who did a shorter distance...with 2kms to go, I set myself in 5th position and waited for the pace to increase...with about 300m to go, and catching the slight downhill before the last flat 200 meters, I opened the a gap really quick...shifted to the 13 and accelerated more...looked under my arm and the gap was there, but the guy who won the Vuelta last year was chasing...went for the 12 and the damn thing hung...sat down, put my head down and saw the guy come by me...even with the 12 I don't think I would have taken it all the way to the line...he was I got second...really happy with it since last year I didn't even finish the race...

So here's the cool thing about the race...$5 registration...numbers??, who needs them...good thing I wear red shoes...I got $25 for my efforts and then the organizers had a meal for all the riders and their families...rice, chicken, pasta salad, sodas, beers...and all for $5!!!!!!....awesome...

Now the Vuelta Masters is in three weeks...4 days and 5 stages...