Monday, October 1, 2012

Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay: Stage 4

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3

After our customary chocolate milk and Coke post-race bevvies, we slow-rolled the mile or so to our new hotel. We were starting to get our daily rhythm down with the luggage. I had reorganized my big bag so that I only ever removed a couple of things that I needed most often, and it could be ready to go again in less than 30 seconds when it was time to wheel it out again at 6 in the morning.

We got cleaned up and piled into the Geely for the drive over to lunch. This time we tried something new. 2 in front, 3 in back, and Zirbel in the trunk with the tailgate up, hanging his legs out over the bumper. That got us a few laughs.

At lunch, I ate a bit, but mostly poked around at the flavorless rice and canned vegetables, the slimy sauceless pasta, and the flavorless chicken leg. The bread was good, then they put a pile of ice cream cups on the table. I ate one, and seeing that there were extra, another. Then I took the last two on the way out the door. Our new hotel was more of a B&B, and had a mini fridge in the room. Snack for later? Yes, please.

Later, for dinner, we voted on a morale- and calorie-boost and opted to pass on the free race dinner in favor of food that we would actually eat. So we meandered into the bustling downtown and found a nice sit-down restaurant. I wanted to try the chivito, one of Uruguay's national dishes, but then I saw pizza on the menu and got tunnel vision.

I got a pretty big pepperoni pizza, and it was fantastic. Always thinking ahead, I had ordered more than I could eat--and I ate a lot--so that I could have leftovers. Talk about a morale boost! I would've paid double what that pizza was worth.

Our hotel, because it was so little, only had to feed 2 dozen racers the next morning. Needing less food, they offered a wider spread and It. Was. Awesome. Aside from the standard yogurt, they had bananas and apples and oranges. They had jelly-filled pastries. They had dulce-de-leche-filled pastries. They had toast with jams. There was cereal, too.

After having some of everything, I went back to the room and took care of the previous night's pizza. Full stomach, happy Chad.

All that food, and Stage 4 was the shortest road stage at only 73 miles. We may have had a tailwind helping us, but the short stage with the rapid-fire sprints and KOMs kept us going fast all day. We averaged 30mph and were done in under 2.5 hours. A short day at the office.

It's about time I tell you about a 'feature' of the racing down there. We had a rolling enclosure, remember? And remember how we're on their highways exclusively? Well, the police ahead of us stopped oncoming traffic in the shoulder (which was always a blast  sketchy as all git-out when we were single-file in the gutter, flicking in and out of the cars). The police were unhappy with traffic building up behind the race, though. They would randomly decide when enough cars had queued up behind the race caravan to let them by.

But we never stopped racing.

So let's imagine together how this goes: 120 riders, racing their hearts out. Attacks are flying. The field stretches out single file during a series of attempts to break things up. Then the front riders sit up and the swarm happens--one of the most dangerous moments in racing as the riders at the back are looking to maintain momentum and launch off the front, threading their way around and through the slowing riders at the front. The field swells to fill the road.

The police, with their extensive knowledge of racing, understand exactly what's going on  oblivious to the ebb and flow of the race, without fail,  chose the swarm as the time to let traffic by.

So the police come up next to us, sirens blaring, and scream over the speaker something that I could never make out, but sounded like, "WABOWABOWABOWABOWABO!!!!" Basically, they wanted us to leave a lane open. At the same time, they're screaming at the traffic to get a move on and get by us.

Knowing how dangerous a situation this was Seeing an opportunity, racers chose to use the extra space as a lane to attack, and the drivers, who were very experienced in driving around races who had no idea what they were doing, would slow to take pictures.

Racing is dangerous, no doubt. But ya'll, this was nuts.


I don't see how this could go wrong at all/Mother, don't look at this picture
Okay, the sprint: We hit the front where we wanted to, but a couple of other leadout trains came up on either side. As we neared the town, there were a couple more turns around roundabouts that we weren't expecting (we were going off incomplete Spanish descriptions of the closing kilometers in the race Bible). We got disorganized, and Ken was left with only Zirbel to take a monster pull into the uphill sprint. It was a drag race, and Hanson came up just a bit shy with 2nd place.

The thing about podiums...they just leave you wanting more. We were getting our momentum back, and we were tired of 'almosts'. Stage 5 had 'Optum' written all over it.

-Can we build on our momentum and bring home another oversized trophy?
-Should we call the home office and have them write off the missing bikes?
-Seriously, what's a chivito?
-Police see Zirbel hanging out the back of the Geely