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.