I had wanted to compete in the 2009, UCI Worlds in Austria but I just couldn’t make it happen. Instead, I chose the Master’s Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic.
I left on Friday, October 30th but with my layover in New York, I didn’t arrive until Saturday afternoon. It seems there aren’t many flights to the Dominican Republic. I can’t seem to sleep on airplanes.
The time trial is an all out effort against the clock. It is called the “race of truth” because you can’t get any help from anyone else. We started the day by riding to the course. Riding a time trial bicycle in a third world country is pretty exciting. There seemed to be no rules. Small motorbikes scooting in and out of cars and driveways, taxi’s stopping anywhere, at any time, trying to pack their vehicles with passengers, horse drawn carts, street merchants weaving through cars, buses, potholes, smog and other bicycles pulling carts. We must have stood out like a sore thumb on our $5000 bikes and stars and stripes jerseys.
We arrived at the course which was in a park closed to traffic. There were 17 countries participating in the event so it had a real international feel. Mike Fraysee was the coach and he’s a great guy. He took care of me like I was a champ. It’s really neat to wear the stars and stripes and compete in an international event representing your country. I wasn’t feeling up to snuff but I gave it a good shot. I won a bronze medal. I was behind the gold by 17 seconds. The split between gold and silver was 30/100 seconds!
The ride home was a trip. It was like riding in a pinball game. I was a bike messenger a long time ago so I’m used to riding in traffic. I describe it as aggressive-defensive riding. You have to be aggressive and state your ground, but at the same time you’re on a bicycle and if it’s between you and a car, you will lose. I had a great time negotiating through all the obstacles.
The next three days was racing on the track so I rested at the pool, went to the track to watch the other Americans race and rode to the time trial course to train. There was a Cuban masseur who was giving massages for only $10. I was getting two a day!
The second day another racer named Evelyn came to train with me to the park. We went a little late so we had to come home in the dark. I got ahead of her and decided to wait. She wasn’t coming and a guy told me she unfortunately got hit by a car. I rode back and fortunately she was okay. That was it for her riding to the course.
At night there was a meringue band that played at the hotel. I made friends with the musicians and would hang with them a little and listen to meringue.
I finally had a race. It was a three mile course; fairly flat with a few little rollers before the last turn to the sprint. It was really hot! There must have been 15 Dominicans in my race. I was the only American.
Immediately, the Dominicans started to attack. I tried to cover some of the attacks but there were too many of them. The Colombians, Argentineans, Puerto Ricans and a guy from Guadalupe were very active so I followed wheels. I was really impressed by the racer from Guadalupe. He was alone too but he was super aggressive, attacking all the time. He would sneak to the back and use the little downhill roller before the last turn to gain speed and then come around the corner. Even when I heard him coming, he would have so much speed from the roller I would really have to dig deep to get on his wheel.
On the last lap another Dominican attacked. I let him go. I figured some of the other countries with three or four teammates would jump on, but no one did. He was able to stay away. I was in the front as we got to the last little roller. I figured I’d try the Guadeloupians move and sat up and drifted to the back. I was betting the pack would stay together on the roller and the attack on the corner. It was an all or nothing move. It didn’t go my way. They all attacked on the downhill. L I turned on the thrusters and passed half the pack around the corner. I got up in the top ten in the last hundred meters but there was no room to maneuver. I ended up with nothing.
I was told my road race was on Saturday the 7th. We had to be in the lobby at 6:30am for an 11am race. By the time we picked up racers from other countries at their respective hotels and arrived at the course I felt like going back to sleep. The heat and humidity were tough; especially when it turned out I wasn’t racing that day. My race was the next day. I basically sat there all day in the heat. I was bummed.
Same story as the day before. Almost five hours had gone by before I was on the start line. For some reason my back had been killing me since I awoke. I don’t know whether I slept wrong or sitting on the bus for so long but I was having problems staying in the tucked position.
My tactics were different this time. Any time a Dominican attacked I was on his wheel. I got in a break with two guys on lap two. The Dominican wanted me to work but I felt it was too early, plus my back was killing me. I got in another break with the same two guys and this time we got a gap. It was an “out-and-back” course so the pack could see us coming back at the turn around. This heightened their desire to catch us and they did. As soon as they did, the winning move occurred. I got on the break but my back was killing me. I had to sit up. I figured I would jump onto the chase group which I did, but once again my back was killing me and I couldn’t stay in the down position. At that intensity I was a goner.
I had a great time, met a bunch of nice people, got to see old Santo Domingo where Christopher Columbus had been and won a bronze medal. It was fun. This year the games are in Cuba and this time I’m going to win all three races!