The time had come once again to pack up my bicycle and head off into the campo (fields) of the state of Buenos Aires to seek victory and fame in my beloved sport of cycling. The race was early on Sunday so I needed to take a 3 hour bus on Saturday to find a hotel, assemble the bike, prepare, and beat every Argentine I could possibly find in front of me, on the track of course. Heres how it went down.
In my previous race I had partied hard the day before the race. This proved to be almost fatal bringing my heart rate to a maximum of 209 during the race. The rule of thumb for maximum heart rate is to take 220 and subtract your age. I am 25 years old. None the less, I partied hard on Friday and enjoyed a successful asado at our house for 12 people. Hope the lady of my house doesn’t read this blog otherwise we are all in for it! This didn’t matter since the race was on Sunday. I woke up with plenty of time, packed the bike into the box and got my way to the bus station. The trip worried me slightly since there were 12 stops in between BsAs and my final destination which meant there were that many chances for my relatively expensive bike to be stolen in a nicely wrapped package. However, no instances of bad luck on the way there.
I arrived in town and found that this place was even more desolate than Olavarria was. There wasn’t even a bus station. You just got off the bus and then you were in the middle of a dusty road with a few shops that sold really crappy t-shirts to the local workers for $3. I entered the nearest store and started asking for a hotel. A rather attractive looking lady decided she would test her drawing skills and gave me a 20 minute lecture on what there is in Arrecifes as well as where to find it and at what time. I could not have run into a nicer lady and I felt extremely well prepared all of a sudden. I walked to the prescribed hotel which was only 2 blocks but quite a chore with a giant bike box. I enter the lazy looking “El Rutenero” hotel and book my 70 peso hotel room. It was a very nice room by any standard and I was pleased. I asked to build my bike in the reception which he obliged. While in there I became the local California celebrity who had a “que buena caja” which can probably be interpreted in a nasty way if you are american.
I rode the town and looked for the bike track. The track is normally an autodromo or a car race track and was a lot more than I had expected. Again I had to ride on dirt to get onto the track but no punctures. Seriously Argentines, pave the roads! There were people there riding around and they were all intrigued with me wearing sandals as I rode for about 20 minutes getting a feel for the track during the sunset hours. I was approached by a few people and I word spread through the few groups of people that I was a “yankee” which is a term actually listed in most spanish-english dictionaries defined as someone from the U.S.
I went home, showered, and looked for food. before I left I had a rather comical conversation with some fellow cyclists staying at the hotel who were racing on Sunday. The comedy had mostly to do with all of our race preperations which basically involved drinking some sort of alcohol and not getting much sleep. We were instantly friends. I left to find the Vudu bar which was on the corner of the one main street in town. As I ate the air was filled with the noise of small wimpy motorcycles riding back and forth. I had chosen the area of town where all the kids take their shitty little moped and rev the engine and pop 3 inch wheelies with their fat girlfriend on the back. There were all sorts of bikes but for the most part they were the standard run of the mill bike pictured here. But many were customised. They had blue lights, handle bar flares, extended mirrors, FMF exhaust pipes, modified springs to accomadate for the weight of these fat girls, extra loud horns, and flashy paint jobs. There were a few larger sport bikes that made an incredible noise which doesn’t make too much sense since the town is only one mile square. Only a few daring souls impressed me but would have fallen on their face flat if they heard stories of Kamran and I riding at speeds in excess of 173 mph through traffic or using every lane on PCH swerving from side to side. It reminded me of “cruising the regal cinemas” in Simi Valley. My pizza was burnt and I didn’t tip. I even asked for a new pizza which I got, and it was burnt. Tough to do in a foreign language.
I didn’t sleep well that night. I had dreams of missing the race and I think I was just nervous for some reason.
Race day shows up, I see the two older racers in the morning and we talk cycling and compare bikes and all that stupid stuff that only a real cyclist could get a kick out of while wearing tights and having shaved bodies. They raced first so I thought it was a little odd I was way ahead of them but it was my usual habit of being overly punctual. Get a grip you late bastards! DO you know how annoying it is to wait for people when they are late? You know who you are. I goto the track and end up setting up camp with the guys from the hotel. They have a larger group that I was not aware of. All very nice people from a place called Lomas near my house in BsAs. I figure out that I am too race in the open category for people under 38. To clear things up from the poster I posted a few weeks back, there are basically three levels of cycling here. The lowest, which is the open class called the “inactivos” since they dont race often. Then the promocianales and finally the elite. The promocianales would represent our category 2 and 3 while the elite are basically sponosored pros. So I was racing in the weakest class but I was fine with that considering my training has been no more than an 2 hours most days on a flat circuit that gets tediously boring followed with beer and wine.
So it turns out the people I was hanging out with were quite well known amongst the peoples there and I was introduced to many a person, often times followed with a story of why that guy is a really good cyclist and look for him in the elites later. My race comes around at 10am. I warm up and we all meet at the starting line. There are roughly 50 racers. While we are waiting they announce they notice that I am listed from California and they decide to announce my presence to the crowd of several hundred, label me as the “yankee” (pronounced shankee) and ask for a round of applause which was most embarrassing considering ,nor they, knew how I would fair in the race. The race starts and I lead the first lap with a fast pace since they had to give me that introduction. The race would be for 50 minutes and immediately it was very competitive with breaks constantly being executed. I stayed in the front for a lot of the time despite the screams from my corner saying “DISPACIO!!!” but it didn’t matter because this punk guy was fucking with my rhythm so I was gonna bury him on the uphill which I did every time and I think he was rather annoyed. Half way through the race my Garmin computer falls off my bike near the largest crowd of spectators as I am zooming past at 45 km/h and I realize that $200 machine that talked to satellites was most definitely gone. That and I lost my heart rate which is a vital part of my racing strategy. I know I can sustain 189 for pretty much 90 minutes and any higher for prolonged periods of time is a sure fire way to be experience total body failure which is an unpleasant thing to say the least. So I decided to take the next 15 minutes “easy” and stay away from the front of the pack. “TRES VUELTAS MAS! TRES TRES TRES!” is heard on the loud speaker and the anticipation and nervousness envelops the pelaton. We all know that in 6 minutes the best rider will be revealed. These last three laps are tenacious and every one is riding closer and harder making for some extremely dangerous moments. Several riders were forced into the grass, I myself ran into the tire in front of me and almost fell to surely be laced with tire treads on my back side but I recovered and with a good dose of panic and adrenaline. The last lap I stayed about 20 riders back. On the first uphill I swooped up to about 6th place and rode the slip stream. The last turn was extremely fast and everyone took it very wide pulling us onto the red and white sloped curb on the outside. The straight away was maybe 200 meters. I was in third riding the wind of two guys who were just getting out of their saddles and staying very close to each other. I surged between them bumping shoulders with both and hit the wind out of my saddle and never looked back. In the middle of a sprint it is very hard to consider the things around you, I could see no one in my peripheral but I was not about to verify my lead position. I dropped one more gear and enjoyed the lactic burn that was spewing from my ears and legs. I crossed the line in first position and had just enough time to get my hands in the air and scream at the top of my lungs with a passion that can only be felt during moments like these.
All the riders were very congratulatory to me and after the first turn I had my new friends running towards me and tackle me off the bike and hugging and kissing me. Truely amazing! Then another guy came over and gave me the checkered flag and told me to do a victory lap. I rode the lap exhausted wishing I had more water while a very rambunctious crowd cheered me on and applauded my efforts. I got back to the starting line and someone took my bike and then I received kisses and hugs from pretty much the entire group of racers and a load of little kids. Meanwhile the guy on the microphone is saying something about me and I turn around to find the microphone stuffed in my face. My spanish is good enough to make new friends and command a pelaton, but after a race with a racing heart and nerves, all I could muster was something like “Muchas Gracias, muchas gracias Arrecifes por todo”. in hind sight I should have just started speaking English but that will be for next time.
Afterwards we ate like kings with an asado prepared in the dirt. Ingenious idea really. We drank wine and ate until I could not move anymore. These people were so very genuine and I am amazed that I can somehow put myself into these situations. They were so lovely and they invited me to their house the following weekend for another race and then another asado and fiesta where they all want to introduce me to their sisters and daughters. I dont give out Visas that easily!
I stayed and watched the next few races and got a healthy sun tan/burn. A guy out of no where comes and finds me and gives me my Garmin and it still worked! He then lectured me about how the people in Argentina are dangerous and you need to be careful with your belongings and how I was really lucky. I was trying to disagree with him but he wasn’t having it and kept lecturing me. I think he wanted a reward or somethin which I did not give him.
Another guy approached me with a 7×10 photo of the sprint finish which was AWESOME! I will have that picture after I goto Lomas for this bike race.
Price to be in love with cycling: 60 pesos for the bus, 70 pesos for the hotel, 40 for food, 8 to pat for his sponsorship, and minus 80 for the price of winning my second race in Argentina. Hot damn!
Update: Pictures from the day http://picasaweb.google.es/fotodecuzzi/150209#5303614303848163426