Monday, January 31, 2011

La Vuelta, 1st report

Finally able to get to a place where I can check e-mails and do a post of the ride.
Sitting at a Starbucks watching people buy their 600 calories coffee like me, but the difference is, I earned it.
I'll do a longer post with my pictures once I get back home, right now I'm copying and pasting from the Vuelta Facebook page.
First day, 565 riders, lights blinking a police escort that rivaled the TDF.
A small group of the escort. These guys where experts at stopping and moving traffic out of the way for us to roll by.

Goup B rolling along, ride captains in green

Small road, big peloton

See the two guys on 29er's? They did all 375 miles on fat tires training for the South Africa "Cape Epic" mtb stage race. Great guys, I rode with them all 3 days in group B. And i invited them to the Manatoc race and they are going to make plans to make it. We are going to turn the Manatoc race into and international affair.

First day we rolled 40 miles to breakfast and watch two riders get married during the Vuelta in a short ceremony.

The "B" peloton rolling along until the Canadiens with the maple leaf jerseys decided
 to go to the front with the captains and drove the pace at 26 plus for over 6 miles. The peloton split and we got to the rest stop there was only about 50 of us.

I always positioned myself in the top 20-30 to be able to manage the accelarations without killing myself
Anyways, first day after the peloton split into the 3 groups we took off from el Conquistador hotel/resort, I estimated about 175 riders in the "B" group to start the first day. The first 89 miles where flat to very short rollers until you hit a very long 2 miles going up to the light house. The climb is hard because it comes after 89 miles. many people that didn't belong in group "B" walked it.
view from the light house.

 Myself, I was surprised at how good I felt and that was when I realized that all the miles I put in until the end of November and all the roller sessions I put in in preparation for the ride were working. I was really surprised at how good I felt all 3 days except for a short time during day 3 that I had to close over 15 gaps in a short period of time because the pace was so high that riders were falling off the pace at a very high rate. Once I moved into the top 10-15 riders I was able to rest and maintain the pace because I didn't have to cloase any gaps. They announced that the pace for "B" group was 18-20...well, at the end of the day the average may have been that but we rode well over that most of the day. We  made it to Ponce, long shower and time to eat.
Music waited for us at almost every rest stop

Very festive and fun to hear the music you grew up with.

The second day we took off from the town square and within 2 miles Wulfran my niece husband had a flat and I heard him and our team stopped to change the tire. Note: the Peloton doesn't stop for flats, they keep going and you may be able to catch up at the next rest stop if you hurry. I changed the tire in no time and another rider next to us had a flat and I saw him having problems and being the nice guy that I am, I fixed the tire in no time, re-mounted the tire and it was head down hands on the drops, push the pace, all of a sudden an explorer pulls next to me and it is Edmundo, a good friend of the family that had stopped to help us with the flat, he proceeds to tell me that "Rossie" the firecraker called him and told him that I needed to slow down because I left the group and if I didn't slow down she was going to take me out. I tell you what, you don't want to double cross "Rossie" you'll know what I'm talking about if you meet her. I'll post her pic. once I download my pics from the camera. I inmediately slowed down for the group to catch up and Edmundo gave us an escort all the way to the caravan of cars and we caught up to the peloton at the first stop. It takes a cyclist to drive a vehicle the way Edmundo did, flawless piece of pacing I have done in a long time, a big Thank You Edmundo.
By the way, the "B" group had a lot less people on Saturday.
Did I mentioned this ride feels like the TDF or the Giro, a long caravan of cars follows the ride from start to finish, sag wagons, bike shop vans with tools and parts, complete families, music at the rest stops, even the town majors come out to say hello and greet the riders riding through their cities. It is a great way, the only way to ride around the island. When the peloton passes by an elementary school on Friday, the teachers and the kids are already waiting for you to high five you and cheer you on.
Last rest stop before my home town rest stop.
La Parguera

15 miles to go to the next rest station, good narrow rolling roads led to a race to the next rest stop. The pace was never under 20 and that was when we were climbing the gentle grades. Once again I knew what was coming because these are the roads I ride when I vacation at my parents. I moved around the peloton until I was in the top 10 for when the pace picked up. 1-2 miles after the Parguera stop the pace picked up and the race was on. Every short or long roller it was down on the drops, race to the top and keep pushing the pace. One of the few times I was brave enough to look at the speedometer we were doing 29 mph on flat roads.
We made it to Mayaguez (B group), our stop for the night at around 11:30, a /most 45 minutes before we were scheduled to get there an indication of how high the pace was.
The roads where ours.

Mayaguez lunch and last stop before heading to the hotel.
This was built for the last Caribbean games in 2010.

Dessert anyone, flan and cocunut cream.

I ate 5 cocunut cream pies and 3 flans, yummy.

Third day I debated whether I wanted to ride the b or C groups, but again, Rossie the firecracker and her dad, Mr. Schnabel "kind" of told me that if I started with the B I needed to finish with the B. Once again I didn't want to go against  Rossie so I waved group C goodbye at 6am and waited for group B stat at 7:30.
On the last day group C goes first then group B and finally group a at 9am. The first 2 days group A starts first then B and C.
Any was, I was glad I followed Rossies "advice" to ride the B group, I was still feeling strong other that the way I explained early in the post. Many long rollers and a few short and steep sections split the pack once again. riders would be rolling in to the rest stop when we wre getting ready to go. Many women, pretty women if I may add, rode in the B group and they were strong. I complemented a few in the way they rode and how well they behave in the peloton. I gave a girl a complement (she looked like early 20's) and she proceeds to tell me "I've been racing for a long time" cocky kind of way, so, being the nice guy I am I told her, me too just 35 years of having fun. She then looked at me for the first time and realized what she had said when she saw my sunburned "kind" of old handsome face.
6 miles from the last rest stop in the town of Dorado I got a flat and the peloton just spat me off the back and kept on going. 2 minutes flat and the tire was back on, 2 cops on motorcycles stopped to watched traffic while I chaged the tire and I asked one of them to pace me back to the peloton. I told him to keep the speed at 25 which he did for all of 2 minutes and then left me to suffer in a very strong head wind. I had adrenaline flowing and wa able to hold 22-25 for 3 miles and as soon as the rollers started went down to 18-20 the rest of the way. Caught many riders from both the B and C groups and they were suffering, felt sorry for them because it was very hot and windy. Made to the rest stop 10 minutes before they were scheduled to take off. Had no time to fill up or go to the bathroom. Our group, we took off before the peloton and rode for many miles in a vey strong head wind and it also rained on us for about a half hour which was great, cooled us off.
Jorge and I waited for the peloton on a side street while the rest of the group kept going. Once we joined the peloton we were able to stay at the front were many pictures were taken. We made our entrance into Old San Juan and the streets were lined with people, entire families came to greet their sons,daughters, husbands, friends every body clapping and cheering, it really made you feel " Mission Acomplished"
What voice did I hear first when we hit the last 100 meter stretch, my good old, wait, let me refrase that before she hurts me, Rossie "the firecracker" just like Bill Gifford said in his Vuelta article screaming out of the top of her lungs PUERTO RIIIIIIIIIICOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. What a great way to finish the ride.
Jorge, I feel for you.
I'm very thankful to my niece and family for inviting me to ride representing the "Clasificados Online" team. many thanks also goes to Jose her brother for taking the time to travle with the peloton taking many pictures and video of all of us.
To Elizabeth (Chabe) my niece and Juan her younger brother who has been riding less that a year, I'm very impresed and proud of the way you rode all 3 days and finished strong.
To Wulfran, Jorge and Eric I'll ride with you any time, keep it up you are all very strong riders.
To all our support people that followed us:
My sister Lindy and the girls, Vanesa and company.
And last but not least, Mr. Schnabel for all the help and for putting up with me talk about bikes, racing touring, and excercise in general, Margaret, the "quiet" one of the family, thanks for all your help.
Did I forget anyone?????????????? Oh yeah the little woman with the big voice, Lissete aka "Rossie The Firecracker" thanks for all your help and encouragement. It was great to meet and spend time with everyone.
If I forgot anyone, my apologies I'm at a Starbucks and the music they are playing is making me sleepy.
Again, a BIG thanks to everyone and leta's do it again some time, somewhere.
Sorry for the long post and blabering but a ride like this cannot be described in two words.
Signing off, safe, sunburned and with a head cold form PR.

ps. more pics coming soon.
few more pics.
Rider from Iran


All riders ride with the Vuelta jersey the last day.

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