Vuelta A Nicaragua 2007

Tuesday, September 4, 2007 Nicaragua – Stage 1

Hey all! Update post stage 1: Mostly flat, a bit of wind, supposedly 140K but ended up being 155K, 4 intermediate sprints. We spun to the start which was about 6K away. We all packed 2 large bottles and one in our jersey. The start was scheduled for 9am and the Miami team gave us the inside scoop to not show up until 9 as they wouldn’t start until 9:30 or so. It worked well. In the van we had over 50 bottles prepared (we used them all today and actually ended up going through 75 or so.)

We had a nice neutral start of about 6K and then the after a brief stop the race started and started fast. Lots of attacks which most of us taking turns covering. Our goal was to set Brett up for the 1st intermediate sprint. He got a bit boxed in but him and Logan took 3 and 4th (points went 5 deep). Shortly after the sprint the break of the day got away, 5 guys (none of us) but it did have a guy from the Miami group so we decided not to chase. There was a steady stream of us going back to the caravan for bottles. While we all took a turn I think Chris did the majority. Each time, collect all the empties from everyone on the team, go back to the car, unload them, take on as many bottles as possible 5-6, weave your way back through the caravan, and hand them all back out.

The course was an out and back, literally (turn around a cone!). Our plan was to be a bit more aggressive after the turnaround which we did. Logan got in a good move for 10-15K but was brought back. More counter moves, etc. By now 2 of the guys in the break had come back so only 3 up the road, about 2 min. I rolled off on a counter and was joined by a Costa Rica National Team guy….all very strong. Considering there was a bit of wind and he is about 5ft 5in I wasn’t getting much draft. After about 10K or so I started to crack a bit….just too darn hot. At this point we were about 1 min up on the field but the break was not in sight, and about 20k (I thought but actually 35K) to go. I had to make a tuff choice to sit on a bit and then I continued to overheat even more and cracked. I went from having 2.5 full bottles to almost nothing in about 15 minutes. Long story short, I rolled back to the group and the group never caught the guy I was with.

For the finish we wanted to set Brett up but really didn’t know where the finish actually was (no 1K, 5K, etc signs). We did alright trying to keep the pace up and did ok to set Brett up where he took 3rd (6th overall) in the field sprint with Adam pulling in 4th right behind. A long day but all survived….now its drink more fluids, rest up, and Team Time Trial tomorrow 40K (supposedly).

Wednesday, September 5, 2007 AM

Just some random ramblings, Hurricanes…..Felix came in last night. Lots of rain lightening, etc but gone by this morning. Still hot! We (or at least) I was secretly hoping it would rain during the stage yesterday so we could drill it on the front…just like home

Bakery…..the other day all 6 of us invaded a bakery. Six hungry bike racers purchasing sweets, baked rolls w/ham&cheese, etc. We all left stuffed and none of us spent over $3 US. Crazy!

Local racers equipment….mixed bag of stuff here. Lots of mid 80s early 90s stuff. Toe clips and straps, first generation look pedals, etc. The weird thing is that locals would rather put a new 10spd cassette with 8 spd shifters and have it not work than have all working 9spd. (ego thing) We did hear of an 11sp cassette….shimano should take notes! Handmade, running on 8 spd shifters. It didn’t shift worth crap of course but hey, 11 cogs is pretty cool! What is really impressive is most of the locals dudes finished with the group yesterday. Almost no hydration support, almost no nutrition support, sub par equipment….just a bit humbling.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007 12:43:24 PM

Nicaragua – Stage 2 A few short ramblings to start with: *Carpool Nicaraguan style…..here folks use any form of transportation thinkable…lots of “retired” American school buses full (overfull) of people, motorcycles and taxis zipping in and out everywhere, occasional horse drawn carriage (cart). One ingenious method is on the bikes folks have. They all have the pegs kids use on their BMX bikes at home so they can stand on the sides of the front/rear wheel to do tricks. Here the pegs are not for tricks; rather it is just one more place for a person to somewhat securely catch a ride. Often we see 3-4 people on a single bike.

Now onto the race….40K out and back Team Time Trial. Start was about 30K away so we jumped in the van and got quite the tour of Managua. Full of culture: poverty, some wealth, etc. True to form we didn’t know our start time and they changed the location of the start. Still, showing up 25 minutes “late” provided us plenty of time. The course was rolling up hill/headwind on the way out and the opposite on the way back. We all rode our road bikes and had some tuff time adjusting as the position is so much different that our typical highly specialized TT machines. Regardless, we stuck to plan which was to ride conservative on the way out and rip the return leg. We kept all 6 of us together through the turnaround and lost one guy on the way back. The return pace was consistently 55-60K an hour. We rolled through the finish with 52;27 good enough for third place! All pretty happy with that and all thinking we would have challenged for the win had we had all our cool TT stuff. The rain made it hard to see as the roads were dirty, etc. Hopefully none of us will get sick with the steady stream of road water/crap streaming off the front wheel in front of us and straight into our face….maybe next we will bring snorkels! Tomorrow will be a hard day. It starts with a 17K climb and then 100K of flat hot roads after. Most of us won’t climb worth crap in the heat (not that we are mountain goats to begin with). We will have to talk logistics tonight so that we make sure everyone has enough nutrition support to get them to the finish. It will be a challenge as the climb will shatter the field.

Thursday, September 6, 2007 PM Nicaragua – Stage 3

A few notes to start with…. In some ways we are all feeling like 6 month old infants….meaning, at no time are we without a nipple in our mouth. While it is just a water bottle this time around it kind of is all the same ie we feel we must have it or we will die! Along the same lines of the above I went through two 24 oz bottles today spinning 8k to the start! It was HOT and no rain ;( Also a first, I think I bonked while I slept! Think about it, that is a whole 7-8 hours without hydration! I quickly drank about 30oz of electrolyte drink and all was ok……on to the days racing

Did I say it was HOT? The race started with a Cat 3 climb and quickly followed by a Cat 1 monster. In all it was a VERY FAST start of 18k and 2500 ft of climbing. Phil, Logan, and Chris all rode with the main group or better. Brett, Adam, and I took a bit more conservative approach and reached the top of the climb together but 7 minutes down on the break of 4 (3 Costa Rican pros and the Nicaraguan Nat Champ).

The next 70K was slightly downhill with a headwind. The 3 of us got the Blue Train rolling in high gear, typically 48-55 k/hr. Since we were outside of the caravan we were also outside of any traffic control. Numerous towns to go through went typically like this: I hit the front, with Brett and Adam on my wheel at 50K/hr weaving in and out of traffic(busses, cars, people, etc) with us yelling the whole time. The three of us picked up guys along the way and eventually got a good group of about 12 rolling. We kept picking up the 100lb climbers that had danced up the climb ahead of us….poor guys now couldn’t even hold our wheel. To our relief we caught the field with about 35K to go. The field consisted of about 40 guys with 3 small groups in front of it. Phil was in one of those groups and stayed out there for about 40K. Things shuffled a bit towards the end with Phil getting caught, Chris getting in a small group for a top 15 finish, and the rest of us leading Brett out for a win of the field sprint. A superb day for all of us. Great team work, strategy and patience….and lots of hard riding of course.

Again, we went through all of the prepared bottles (About 75) and then another 25-40 that were made on the road. Unbelievable how much stuff we are going through…..For those that don{t know, a typical race in Washington will mean 2-4 bottles per person not the 12-18 during the race here in addition to the 2-3 before and the 10-12 post! Again, our support today was great with none of us every in any danger of running dry. A very impressive feat considering how spread out the race was. It is late and it has been a long day…..later! Brian Hey all, Still hot and still surviving. A bit more info on yesterday…..it was the most fun I had racing my bike in a long time. Of course, we all define “fun” a bit differently. Ripping through towns at breakneck speed is a bit of a thrill. I failed to mention that I flatted with 25K to go and even though our support car was right there it took a bit. I got pushed back in but was outside of the caravan but right into the traffic backup. I had to chase back on which means head up and hammer down. I made one mistake of passing a bus on the right and the driver decided to go right as well and bumped me off the road at 45K an hour. Struggling through some gravel I was able to navigate a 6 inch edge and pop back up on the road. No more going right! so I rode in the oncoming lane passing a long line of cars, trucks, etc until a full semi was in “my” lane and approaching me. Problem was that the gap to shoot over to the next lane was 75M ahead and closing fast….long story short (lots of yelling, pointing, but no slowing down) I shot through with about 1 car length to spare! I ended up catching on about 5K later so my day was spared! See, we all define fun differently.

Overall, we were all in the top 20 mainly due to our stellar TTT. All new that would change soon enough…

Friday, September 7, 2007 PM Nicaragua – Stage 4

A welcomed shorter day of 100K, rolling (small hills) start with a fair amount of wind and then a 5K section of cobles with a 2% uphill grade, and then 20K climb to the finish. The climb was up and down with most ups around 8-10% as well as some sustained sections at 13-14% (steep!) The day started fast, that is until they put the TV cameras away then it was “piano” (slow) for about 10K or so. The wind picked up and the field started splitting up a bit. All of us were able to stay in the front group. Brett came down with a strong intestinal bug yesterday afternoon and as a result did not finish today. Huge applause for trying…I think he made it about 1/2 way.

The road we were on for a large portion of today is the equivalent to Aurora Ave in Seattle. Busy, 4 lanes, divided highway. We either had our entire half or at other times the whole thing. I inadvertently almost caused a major traffic accident. Chris brought up bottles from the car and I didn’t have anything to do with one of my empties…usually we drop them to the car as we would run out otherwise. Not having any room I tossed it into the relatively empty side of the highway. All of the approaching cars came SCREACHING to a halt just so they could have a chance of grabbing the souvenir! Some chaos ensued before some local was able to grab it…..Opps.

Back to the stage….we hung a left turn off the highway and on to a really tough 5k sections of cobbled road with a 2% incline. For the most part we were all able to pound the pedals and keep in the top 20. Then another turn, off the cobles, down a short hill, and then the real climbing started. First pitch was 12% and I detonated so quickly I don’t even think the fuse even got lit. (I think the crater was bigger than the steaming volcano on the next ridge). Phil, Logan, and Chris managed to stay with the lead group for awhile longer. The van came up to me, stocked me up with fluids and went on its way. About 5K later I got passed by a bunch of guys that had been dropped on the flatter cobbled section. Of course, they were all about 110 lbs. Luckily they caught me at the top of a section which was followed by a bit of a downhill. I got a bit of a rest and then once the road started up they promptly left me. Phil got dropped and then chased back on…or almost as he crashed in a sandy corner. He is sore and stiff but should be able to start tomorrow. Chris rode exceptionally well and pulled a top 15 with Logan only about 30 seconds behind him. The rest of us trickled in. I was happy with my ride, surviving the heat.

For someone like myself, once the road goes up beyond 5% I begin to struggle. It is all about power to weight and these days my power is ok but at 185lbs I can’t generate enough to stick with the little guys. Additionally, with the heat and unk distance and grade of the finishing climb it is best to conserve. I would rather ride conservatively at the end of today and loose a few additional places on the overall standing so that I can have better legs during a time when I have more of an advantage. Placing high on a stage or two is what my hopes are…not the overall. Tomorrow is supposed to be the hardest day, long and lots of climbing…..we shall see as know one that speaks English ever really knows..

Saturday, September 8, 2007 PM Nicaragua – Stage 5

Let me start with a couple thoughts about doing a long stage race….each day you get more tired yet each day you have a more difficult time sleeping. It is a bad cycle. We are all sleeping like crap and having less and less energy each day. The good thing is that the same goes it for everyone else as well. Each morning and now some evenings I am getting pretty nauseated but nothing more serious than that. Once on the bike for 15K or so all is ok.

On to the race….today was billed as the hardest of the race. Lots of wind, heat, and hills. For once we got some pretty good and detailed info about the course, etc so we went into the race with a strong plan. The plan for today was to not cover anything for the first 30K and then if the crosswind was blowing we would put the blue train on the front to try and take some bite out of the climbers legs. We would have Logan and Chris sit in with me, Phil, and Adam doing all the work. Just as planned, the wind was blowing pretty hard but not as much from the side as we hoped. Even so, we jumped into action and set a hard tempo on the front for 20K. The field was single file the whole time but not enough wind from the side to allow us to split it up. There had been a strong break up the road which we brought back. We pulled everyone off the front just in time to begin the real suffering up and down a bunch of huge rolling hills. Phil began having huge problems with his knee, which he has had every day since his stage 1 crash which was only made worse after yesterday’s crash. He was forced to drop out…..a bit bummed to say the least.

The wind, heat, and rollers were really REALLY hard with most of us crying for mercy which luckily happened with some flatter roads, straight headwind, and cloud cover. Next we hit a big climb that split the field. Both Adam and I were dropped but both of us railed the descent and caught back on (a story that would repeat X4 for me!). After another climb we descended quickly, 90K an hr. Adam followed an attack and was able to get up the road in a group of 5, which were chasing 1 solo guy. The next section was an out and back with lots of climbing. Again, I came off numerous times but chased back on each time. Logan and Chris hung tuff the whole time. Adam stayed off and split his group on the downhill. They didn’t catch the first guy and Adam ended up third on the stage! A really great ride. Logan, Chris and myself all finished in the bunch which was down to about 45 or so.

Overall, the stage was hard but not the hardest from my perspective. We did 4000 ft of climbing, with lots of wind, and 135K. Tomorrow is the final day of 80K. It is a hard course and it is expected to be fast. As a group we have been trying to figure out how hard this race is, ie how does it compare to stuff at home. It is difficult to judge because of the heat, language barrier, mass chaos, etc. I think since it was a bit cooler near the latter part of the stage today we were able to get a better handle on the level of difficulty. I think it compares to the Elkhorn Stage Race (Cat 1/2 field) which is a large regional event in Eastern OR. Some parts are harder but overall I think that is a good comparison.

A few last notes……as part of the trip we put out a call for folks to donate bike parts, etc and we brought those down for those folks that are so less fortunate from and equipment perspective. There was some really nice stuff donated and it will be raffled off to the last 30 riders on the overall classification. In a previous note I mentioned how “valuable” our water bottles are….today I had the pleasure of riding by a family watching on the side of the road. I was drinking the last sip out of a bottle, and somehow made direct eye contact with the 4-6 year old son. It was just a moment but enough for me to reach over and gently toss him the bottle. While I am sure it was really cool for him I think it will be something I will remember longer than he will.

Sunday, September 9, 2007 PM Nicaragua – Stage 6

Hey all, Typical race day meaning that we didn’t know the start time or the distance. The course was up and down the main drag right in town. Stairsteps uphill into the wind then turnaround and zip back down. We were told 8 laps then sometime during or after the start they said 10 laps. Later the officials argued with the riders and apparently we ended up doing 9 laps. Personally, I had a good day, easily staying in the top 20, covering some big attacks. I got 2nd in a point sprint and then finished 7th on the stage. I believe Chris finished 8th or 9th. Both Logan and Adam finished with the group. Traffic control for today was the worst. Several times they failed to control traffic and we had to split through cars at high speeds (40+)…even in the finishing sprint (it went around a roundabout and then it was about 200m to the line) cars went through that the field had to split and then coming out of it there was a huge bus in our lane…..par for the course.

Overall, Chris was 14th on GC, Logan 16th, I think I was 30th or so…not really sure and I am not sure where Adam finished. The awards were immediately afterwards but took forever. We received medals for our TTT 3rd place, some cash for Adams stage finish, and then some cash for Chris and Logan’s GC. All in all not very much but each little bit helps. After tonight we are splitting up a bit. Some are going home, some are going straight to the beach (by bus), and Phil and I are going to head down to Grenada, tour some volcanoes, and then head to the beach….we will be riding our bikes! Those that are staying will all be leaving a week from today.

Overall, I think we are all pretty proud for how well we rode, how we well we represented our team/state/ and country and how well we handled the craziness. We established some really great relationships ones that will continue beyond this trip. (For me that is the most meaningful part) We are all already talking about next year….I, for sure, would very much like to do this again. This will be my last update….thanks for reading and being interested in what I label as FUN!

Monday, September 10, 2007 Touring Day 1

Saw lots of cool stuff today so wanted to pass it along. But first a few last minute things about the race…..I now have the nickname of the zebra because of my tan lines. My scalp is literally striped due to the sun exposure through my helmet vents….It is far worse than you might be able to imagine! At the start of the race yesterday I got into an interesting conversation with a local racer. We was ogling over my “enormous” legs. We pointed to his and just shook his head in disbelief….now from a cyclist perspective I in no way have big legs. I joked around with him and put my arm next to his leg and flexed my arm…I think it was bigger than his leg. One more thing, a water bottle Nicaraguan style is a plastic bag filled with fluid and tied shut. They hand it out, the rider bites a whole in the end and sucks out the fluid. Hard to believe….lots of heart with these guys. On to today….. We extracted ourselves from the hotel by late morning. Quite an accomplishment after a moderately heavy night of post race partying. Last night we went to a typical Nicaraguan restaurant. I had rice, beans, steak, and fried plantains. All very good. Dinner and 3 beers, and live music brought the steep bill of $5! Then it was on to a bar to drink Mojitos. Rum, sugar, and fresh mint…..they are incredibly good. We were sitting out on the patio of the restaurant when a family came up 3 playing drums, one in a 10ft tall costume of a women, and another in a little midget costume 3ft tall but with an enormous head…anyway they started playing the drums and doing this little dance/performance which was all pretty funny….then it took a bit of a strange turn as the dance got weird in an erotica sort of way. Anyway, 7 gringos drunk on mojitos all thought it was absolutely bizzaro and hilarious. We tipped them well. Looking back on it, I think we were the only ones that thought the whole thing was entertaining/funny as everyone else just looked annoyed.

Anyway, Phil and I loaded up our race bikes with some bolt on seat post racks and small panniers. With about 25lbs of gear each we started out for Granada, about 40K away. We made it 6K and had to stop at great bakery where I spent $2.25 and ate like a pig. I think the bakery clerk was both astonished and a bit grossed out. We rolled into Granada about 2pm and wandered around until we found our hotel. Granada is a very interesting place. It is unlike any place I have ever seen in Costa Rica or Nicaragua. It has many old colonial style buildings and churches all with vibrant colors. It has a hug town square/market that is full of vendors selling their crafts. It is a noisy city during the day as they shut the power off until 5pm and everyone runs generators to make up for it. Phil and I went into a salon and got our haircut….$2.50 for the both of us including tip. It was an out of the way place so it was cool to interact with the locals. Walking around town it was neat to see the people at their everyday lives, the colors of the town, the narrowness of the streets, the intricate cobbled roads and sidewalks. A very interesting place to say the least. As the sun set the sky and evening light took on a weird glow, unlike anything I have ever seen almost illuminescent…if that makes sense. It was quite fascinating.

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Tuesday and Wednesday, September 11&12, 2007 Touring Day 2

We are on to San Jorge, about 65k ride, and then a ferry to Ometepe where we will hike some volcanoes, check out a waterfall, etc. We have had an interesting past few days. As mentioned we rode to Granda and from there we went to Rivas>San Jorge>Island of Ometepe. On the way to Rivas Phil broke a rear spoke so we went into town looking for a bike shop. We stopped at a roadside “bike” stand and they didn’t have what we needed but to young guys on road bikes talked to us and said they could help us. They took us into the bowels of the local market where we were the only gringos there. Initially, they said they didn’t have anything that would work but the motto here is always “You can get anything to work in Nicaragua”. We went back and forth with a bunch of different folks and after about an hour they found a spoke that would work. Out of the back they pulled this truing stand that was made of solid steel…super cool but probably weighed 40 lbs. Long story short, the wheel was better than when we started. I had the wisdom of pinning my race number on my pannier bag. Folks saw this and we became instant celebrities. They were honored to help us. So much so, that they refused any $$ for their services.

87210009

Truing Stand, Nica Style

Granada

Granada


Granada 2

Church in Granada

The two young guys helped us out so much that we asked if we could take them to lunch…..they were psyched to say the least. At lunch they brought out this digital camera and began showing us a bunch of pictures of us racing! Pretty cool! Basically, to them it was like having lunch with Lance Armstrong. They chaperoned us down to the ferry and we swapped emails and said our good byes. On the Island of Ometepe we climbed Mt Conception, which is a 6000ft active volcano. The climb was steep, through thick jungle, and mostly cloudy the whole time. We saw some cool monkeys….it started raining and they all got pissed off and started moaning and groaning….also there was one that tired to piss on Phil…luckily it missed. Once above tree line the climb got steeper, cloudier and windier. About, 600 ft from the summit we decided to turn around as it was getting a bit to sketchy for me. All in all it was pretty cool. It took about 5 hrs which is far less than the 10-12 the guide books says…obviously it helps to be super fit. On to San Juan del Sur (on the pacific ocean).

Ometepe

Ometepe

In trying to leave Ometepe We missed a couple of ferries so got a very late start and then once on mainland we ran into problems with Phil’s wheel again. It was no longer rideable so we were able to hitch a ride from some gringo named Brian. Obviously, hitch hiking in Nicaragua at dusk is less than desirable …pretty unsafe but we were in a bind and had few options. Luckily it all worked out but not something I would choose to do. Once in San Juan we found Brett and Logan staying at THE nicest place in town….The Pelican. 3 cascading swimming pools, restaurant, etc etc. All for $140 US for 4 folks including a very nice breakfast. Today we will head to the beach do a bit of bogie boarding, drinking and relaxing…..lots of logistics for Phil and I to figure out how we might bet back to Managua…..here $$ will get you anything so it is just a matter of how much we are willing to spend. Later, Brian

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