Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay: Stage 6

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
Stage 5

While Ken was still being laden with bags of victory gifts, the rest of us walked the blessedly short distance to the hotel. We had adjoining rooms with a shared bathroom, and to say they were small would be an understatement. There were 3 twin beds in each room, and they were so close together that we had to get creative with luggage placement just so we could walk through. In my room, we had the option of getting to the door or the balcony, but not both at once because Tom's bed was in the way. Yes, the distance between the door and the balcony door was the length of a twin bed plus one foot.

In the other room, you could open both doors but only part way:

You couldn't get us down about the rooms or lack of internet, though, we were just too happy with another win.

We went out for some celebratory cervezas and chivitos at the diner on the corner. As we were walking along the front of the hotel, Zirbel stopped abruptly, looking through the glass into the hotel lobby. After getting my attention and pointing to the lonely piano sitting in the corner, he asked, "Concert after dinner? Pretty please?"

I was only too happy to acquiesce to his request. And after another delightful round of chivitos while watching Ken win on the sports highlights reel on TV, we hustled back to the hotel. Amanda made me promise to wait until she was done with massages before I played--I couldn't deprive her of the opportunity!

By the time everyone was ready, though, it was pretty late. The lobby was also completely full of the UCI officials going over results and logistics for the following day, as well as a dozen people on laptops hogging all the bandwidth. Just one piece and then I'd let them get back to work. Tom was already eagerly sitting on the couch--he didn't want to miss anything.

I walked over, pulled the bench out, sat down, and lifted the lid off the keys. The would-be audience collectively held their breath as they waited to see if I could actually play or was just another person that felt like disrupting the silence for a disappointing rendition of chopsticks.

I was in South America. If I could only play one piece, there was only one choice: Malaguena. I don't want to brag, but I rocked it. The piano was pretty well out of tune, but it still sounded good. I closed the piano up and turned around to find the couches full and the stairway behind me full. A smile, a small bow, and I was off to bed.

We were up early again for another transfer before the race, and we spent the drive looking out the window at the storm we were heading towards.

Today marked the beginning of real problems with the missing luggage. We had run out of drink mix altogether and were quickly running out of race food, so we had to improvise. We tried substituting Tang for the drink mix (side note, don't race with Tang in your gut). Amanda was making us tiny sandwiches to take along as substitutes for Clif Bars. We would be back in Montevideo tomorrow night and were sure that our bags would be there waiting for us.

Stage 6 was 91 miles, and the first third was on smaller country roads. For the first time in whole race, you could hold your position at the front because the road was narrow. It took a while to get up there, though, as I had started at the back after a last-second visit to the john. The racing was top-notch as you could repeatedly batter the riders at the front until fresh guys managed to get to the front for reinforcements. Teams were legitimately missing the moves and then scrambling to the front to chase it back. Attacks were going--and hard--as riders tried to get clear before we reached the storm. I ended up in a move that was off for 10 minutes or so before we got reshuffled into the mix.

Finally the storm hit just as the road became a chipped-up and potholed mess. It started to get windy and chaos broke out. The attacks went full-gas and slammed the field in the gutter with the mounting crosswinds. Guys were desperately clinging to the wheel in front of them, single file, while dodging potholes and trying not to fall off into the ditch. The road was scattering water bottles at will while we made the decision to keep the nasty water being flung off tires out of our eyes by keeping our glasses on...or choosing instead to see and taking our glasses off.

I felt fine at the start of the race, but when it hit the fan I was very quickly aware that I had not started with a full tank. For the rest of the race I would get spit out the back when it went really hard, then chase back on after dealing with more frustrating dissention in the chase groups. When I got back to the field, I would shelter Zirbel, Zwiz, or Hanson until things broke up again.

I'm not impressed with the cohesion of our chase group
In the final hour of racing, I was back in the caravan at least 3 times, just trying to maintain contact. I truly was spent from 6 days of racing. My max heartrate had fallen over 10bpm by this point, signaling that my aerobic system was pretty well worn out.

I finally managed to get back in the group as we reached town, where I would be completely useless in a leadout attempt. The other guys got Ken up at the front and left him to freelance today. The run-in was sketchy as the rain continued to fall and we weren't sure about the number or direction of turns. No problem for SuperKen, though, who notched up another one!

-Racing past the expiration date on my legs
-Another piano?!
-Will we ever eat the free food again?
-Fingers crossed for the missing bikes!