Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vuelta Independencia Nacional (UCI 2.2)

Back in 2001 the Vuelta Independencia Nacional was my first UCI race outside of Europe and I remember a pretty exciting trip for a 19-year old kid. So when I was asked to go down again I thought it would be good to see how things are 10 years later and maybe get to see some old friends. Most importantly, though doing a 8-day stage race in mid-February is a great way to get ready for a long domestic season in the US. There's no much better way to get the "moto" going then doing a week of medium-intense racing in. The racing is not easy by any means but not too intense to crack you or make you dig too deep. So as long as you stay off the pavement and don't get sick you get a great training effect out of it - mostly done at 43-45kph for most stages. Most of the Latino teams (Venezuela, Colombia, etc.) have done quite some races already and the local teams from the D.R. are eager to show themselves at the front at the highlight event of Dominican Cycling throughout the year - culminating with the last stage being held on February 27, the "Independence Day" of the DR.

back in 2001...

...and 10 years later in 2011

I was guest-riding with a young group from Texas (Park Place) and even with me, the "old" guy, our average age of the team 22.5years! Zach, Nathaniel, Kolt, Wes & Wade, and Leo as DS made for a entertaining group for the whole trip. Stage 1 started with a 120km, 4-corner, circuit-race close to downtown. It was a short, traffic-eventful, ride from the hotel and even at 10am we already had 90F. After a short & light week of training and a day of traveling the legs felt a bit rusty and I was definitely not up to normal form. Kazakhstan showed up with 12 riders this year (on 2 teams) and were racing like mad-man out there. I don't know why the UCI allows 2 pretty much national teams from the same country in a race. They sure won't race against each other and in my opinion made the race a bit less open as you always had the "Borat-green" countering any moves - at least for the first few stages. A break of 13 stayed away and last year's Overall GC winner (and local rider) Sanchez won the stage. But we all made it through w/ out problems.

Park Place p/b ROTHE Training at start of Stage 1

Stage 2a was the first "real" stage when we hit the coast East of Santo Domingo and rode along the highway all the way to La Romana. Within the first 30km Team Kazakhstan (12 dudes, not 6 like all the other teams) took over at the front and put it in the gutter. It was hard but good and suddenly we're only 50guys left in the front group. I rear flatted right then hitting some metal piece on the shoulder. I stopped and 45seconds later the rest of the field browses by. After a wheel change I make my way through traffic thanks to our Hyundai Piccolo(sp?) back to the tail end of the large field which got dropped by our front group from earlier. I was not a happy camper, especially since some Colombians decided to take this group in the gutter while trying to catch the front 50guys. After a few pulls and some "organized yelling" we caught up the front again. Wade and I made it to the finish in the front group. The race commissaries didn't like my pacing after my flat and gave me a 1min time penalty...:-( It was a rough stage. We got to hang out for a few hours at a local Museum with pool (?), eat and sleep.

guys catching a break between half-stages at La Romana Retreat-center/museum

Stage 2b to Higuey was going to be short and punchy. Only 48km with crosswinds and the famous little "valley" where you descent on a shitty road, cross a bridge, and then ride up a short, steep climb on - I have to say - very nice, wide open tarmac. We all made it over there but the flats hit us again and Wade flatted right next to me as he hit another giant pothole. USA U23's Larry hit the same hole I think, broke his carbon front wheel, and did a somersault but luckily didn't break anything and was able to continue. The crosswinds made it a bit tricky but I was able to stay up the front and just follow wheels until the finish. Funny note: Rob Squire was in the yellow jersey after Stage 2a but the old leader (local D.R. rider Sanchez) still got to wear it on Stage 2b while the USA controlled the field and rode at the front the entire 48K. Not sure what to think about that, but I think Squire was not happy. If you're leading a UCI stage race you should get to wear the leader jersey and not someone else.

the "hill"

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