It's been a while since i engaged in some good old fashioned international bicycle adventuring. This weekend was a much needed return to such shennaingans in Mexicali Baja California. Whilst i'll spare you the details of the blow by blow i will furnish you with the reader's digest for your perusing pleasure.
Stage one saw us leave san diego at the ungodly hour of 4;45 IN THE MORNING, i had heard tell of such a time from triathletic types but until now i had never seen it other than on my way back from an endurance disco dancing marathon. Having loaded the rental Suburban (thanks State Farm insurance and the lady who failed to notice my parked car and smashed my oil tank) Luke and i set of to Calexico where we met our friend Jose and crossed the "line" into mexicali (see a naming trend emerging here?) immedeatley on arriving we turned off the road to a brand new autopista, so very new in fact that bob el constructor and his big yellow digger were still having at it. bicycle adventurers as we are we didn't let this put us off and kitted up for the start,w hich we were reliably informed was a scant 15 minutes away. Having rushed to the line we noted the absence of other riders, or indeed a line. Soon thereafter it became clear that A) we wouldn't be starting on time B) the dude with the paint can was undersupplied to paint the enitre word "META" and C) there wasn't a toilet anywhere at the race. A brief visit to a local petrol station, 2 glass bottles of coke, much explaining of how to spell my name and several assurances that yes, i was diabeitc and no, i wasn't going to die and we were off. Then we rode in circles for an hour, given that Calimax had about 70% of the field in their shopping trolley themed Jerseys, and that i represented 1/76th of the field, and given that we were racing a crit. it may not shock you to learn that for much of the race i rode around in front of a large group of bike riders, and despite my best efforts we remained close. sadly some of the bike riders decided to take off and very few of those remaining were willing to co-operate in my attempts to reunite our band of bicycling brothers. Lucas and his 3 calimax compadres stayed away with Lucas taking the sprint. i finished safley in the pack having inhaled a cubic foot of sand.
After the race we repaired to a local bakery, and the house above it where the Calimax team furnished us with bread, jam, sandwiches pasta and pizza. Post lunch entertainment was provided by my blood glucometer and a "highest non diabetic blood glucose" competition. Oddly the correlation between the results of that competition and the afternoon road race was surprisingly accurate,and inverse. It turns out that at 40 degrees centigrade (100 of your american degrees), pizza is not an ideal meal two hours before the race.
The second stage saw us scaling the mighty rumorosa, this was a bit of a target for me as i haven't been gifted with a Cavendish like sprint, but my twiggy physique lends itself to scaling such storied passes. After two hours awaiting the arrival of our police escort and seeking shade at the race start which seemed to be the car park of a petrol station and two more mexican colas ( I might have overdone the levimir a bit) we headed off on a neutral roll out. Classic Latino biek racing, big holes, blaring sirens and waving kids. After 10k we stopped, 100 men dressed like power rangers urinated on somebody's garden and the race began.
Approximately 15 seconds later i found myself enjoying the delicious taste of my own blood in my mouth as we left the peloton to share the wind amongst themselves and bravely struck out on a two up breakaway attempt. There were three people present but one of them was quite intent on not making himself part of any breakaway and instead experimented with the finer points of sucking wheel. Having not taken one pull for 3kilometers he then began to urge us to pick up the pace lest he get caught. Somehow when this occurred he was still taken by surprise and left to return to the bunch, i think he would have been happy there, more wheels to suck. After a few kilometers of breakaway antics i noticed the bumps in the road becoming more pronounced and the speed becoming more difficult. The bike wasn't exactly handling that well either. sure enough the very same glass bottled soda which fueled the breakaway was now coming back to bite me. my right arm went up, i put the deraillieur in the 11, swung a leg over, hoiked out my wheel and held it high and waited, and watched the bunch roll by, and the caravan roll by. And then our car arrived, accompanied by the judge's moto. We changed the wheel and i told our driver in no uncertain terms that i would be accepting hydration in the form of sticky bottles until my return to my previous position in the race. The judge had other ideas and wouldn't even let me draft behind our car.
And so, the next 40 minutes were spent dribbling on my top tube at 40+ km/h as i inched closer to the carvan. With the help of an unsolicited armsling from a man in the back of a pick up truck, the encouragement of every school child in Baja California and the comforting sound of a telephoto lens capturing the joy that is a solo time trial i returned to the comfort of the bunch. Once there it became clear that my rear wheel posessed mesmerizing qualities. And that my breakaway companions were no longer broken, nor away. However a select group had gone clear and all the teams were represented. Rather than conserving my forces like a good bike racer i took off in hot pursuit, although momentarily distracted by a fantastic looking taco joint and some kind of military roadblock which we passed through I was fortunate enough to receive a coke hand up from one of the judges (4 so far if you're counting) and to be able to drop everyone on the climb. Resulting in a placing which, depending on who you ask was either 5th or 8th on the stage.
At the top of the climb, I was greeted by a small crowd, some surprised looking judges who hadn't seen me since my flat and a homeless guy who was moved enough by my appearance to give ME some candy and a blanket (as well as a gentle ribbing about the inferiority of the Europeans). Jose was waiting at the top having climbed into the car and had kindly left me what i can safely say was the best egg sandwich ever made. after drinking a coffee and watching the remnants of the bunch come in in the dark 8 sweaty men piled into a 5 seater pick up to drive to various parts of Baja California and a hungry diabetic in someone else's sweater munched on dried mango with chilli and tested the blood sugar of everyone in the car. At Jose's house we ate beef and rice, drank coconut water and cursed glass shards. And then, at 10pm we slept like babies. but not before we set our alarms for 5;30 in the morning so that we could hurry up and wait for the next adventure. But that's a story for tomorrow.