Well the entire race as been Epic but today had a little bit of everything and has become my favorite stage so far with one more stage tomorrow.
When I said everything, I meant everything beginning with the start. We line up as usual and the officials announce some disqualifications from the previous day. It seems the officials are enforcing the “no outside help except at checkpoints” rule this year. One of the disqualifications was a Colombian rider in the top 10.
This sparked a protest with several South American riders refusing to race and setting up a quasi-blockade at the start line. One bold soul wearing a Tour de France yellow jersey barged through the blockade and started the race as the officials said “Go!” The rest of us just stood there amazed. I’ve never been a race with a rider protest as I assume most of the other racers. Finally, the race leader, Ben Sonntag, took the microphone urging the riders to race and follow the rules. After a few seconds, Ben took off and everyone followed.
I almost forgot even before this drama, they called up the category leaders for the leader jerseys. I was called up. I knew I was not the leader of my category as I am over an hour behind Eddy Perez but the race organizer was adamant about me being the leader. I put the jersey on while Eddy made his case and I have no idea what’s going on but the we were less than a minute from our assumed start time so I wore the jersey for the race. I think they even gave me the 50+ age group jersey.
Now to the race. We had a 1km neutral start and as soon as the flag dropped the attacks came. They came one after another after another and each was painful. I know this is racing but we were starting on a 40km climb so the hill is going to sort everything out.
I hung on as there were only 10 of us left and at the 10km mark the hill went back to the Costa Rican 20+% grade and I was dropped. I kept pressure on the pedals as I could see some guys just ahead of me.
Then the race went from broken pavement to concrete double track. I have never seen this before but it was cool as it was enveloped in a forested canopy. Out of the double track onto some of the most beautiful single track. The single track was about 12inches wide and then only green grass. I got to find more of this. It didn’t last long till the first hike a bike. I passed a couple of guys and then a third as I made my way to check point 1.
More water and more GU Brew and I was off. Climbing and climbing and climbing. A mix of dirt roads and pavement through the green farms on the mountainside. After checkpoint 2, I pedaled into the clouds. The mist and blowing rain started. I kept my drive and kept going up. I then got cold to see my temp gauge read 10 degrees Celsius. I was cold and looking forward to my jacket at Checkpoint 4.
Check point 4 was to be at the top(3000+meters) at 32km but as everything here it’s “mas o menos.” I climbed above the storm and found the checkpoint at 36km—almost the top of Guayabo Volcano.
No jacket needed and it’s all downhill, right? Not right. After a few minutes of descending some extremely fast dirt roads the road started to climb again and roll along the mountain. It seems the course traverses over to volcano number 2. More climbing and it was rocky which seems to seep every bit of momentum from your forward movement.
Finally some more downhill in baby head size rocks. Then the rocks became bowling ball size. There’s no lines. Just point your bike down, hold on and hope you make the turns. My hands began to ache and my shoulders became stiff. I wanted to let loose of the brakes but I needed them to keep the rubberside down. I bounced down this mountain trying not to flat. Then it happened.
I hit something (a rock) big. No flat but I definitely lost my tire bead and some air from the rear. I tried to baby it a little hoping for the pavement finish but I smarted up and stopped. A quick CO2 blast and I was on my way.
More rocks and then loose gravel but I was going faster now trying to drink and eat when possible. I think I carried an open GU in my teeth for 2km before finding a safe place to eat it.
Then the pavement came. It’s 10k to the finish and all downhill. This was the best pavement downhill I have ever done. The pavement was new and the turns dream like at 65kph on a MTB. As I entered town, a police motor escort came up beside me and escorted me through town. As the downhill ended I searched for the finish scanning every side road. Finally, in my broken Spanish, I asked the policeman how far and he said 1km. YES!
I finished in 3:53 and 8th place. A good day for me
Now it’s only one more stage and as this race has showed—everyday has a different challenge. We start with some steep climbs (of course) and then descend to the Caribbean coast.