La Vuelta de Independencia

Check back for daily updates following each stage.

Up to date results and race info can be found here!

Stage 1- Santo Domingo-San Pedro de Macoris-Santo Domingo:144km

Our team of 6 was tired on stage 1 and we have some redemption to make up in the following stages. It all started last night when we went for team dinner across town. The organizations shuttle bus was overwhelmed with the # of cyclists and was a bit slow, and then ran out of fuel on one of its trips so we were waiting a while. So we hopped in a taxi and asked the drive to go to the Fiesta hotel on Avacona Avenue. “Yes, amigos, Vamos!”. Like the night before on my bike ride, the driver drove north instead of west. We corrected him and then proceeded to drive around in circles, doing a total of 4 u-turns. We managed to make the 10 minute journey into 45 minute run around. After that we spent the rest of the evening asking our hotel for a 3rd bed as we had to three up in the rooms. After 4 confirmations of a bed coming, and 5 hrs, and bit of a fight, we got our bed and prevented any spooning action. Bye this time it was after midnight and morning was coming fast.

Next up was getting to the start line. It was an easy 20 minute ride, which turned into a 1hr and 5 minute ride as we and about 50 other riders road around Santo Domingo hopping boulevards, pulling u-turns and getting laughed at by school kids as we road by 3 times. Eventually we got to the start line and the race was delayed 45 minutes as we were half the field and still needed to do team pics etc..

Eventually the 3 day gongshow of getting to the start line ended, and the race was on. It was a sweet start to the race as we ripped along the blue Caribean sea for km’s on end with palm trees swaying in the wind. My mind and body were still in shock after the winter up north but things were going alright. There were attacks all over the place, which I watched as I eased into the race year. Near mid race I started seeing riders dropping like flys and couldn’t figure out why everyone was going back to get feeds at the same time. Then I figured out that riders were actually getting dropped and that the 120 rider field had split and I was off the back with 40 or so guys. I was feeling good but at the same time I was pretty screwed as the race was getting out of my hands. Trying a solo effort to bridge the gap got me within 10 or 15 seconds of getting on but then there were more attacks and I was no longer gaining. There was no one else strong enough back there to help bridge so I conserved some energy and dropped back, and then steadily drove the bunch of dropouts near the peloton again, with it luckily slowing and we all got back on. From there to the finish it was smooth but the main pack that we were in had lost 15 minutes on an early breakaway group of 10 riders. Not a stellar result but I was super stoked to be riding in the sun and was happy with how the legs felt.

Riding back to the hotel with the team was your typical 3rd world country bike ride gongshow as we weaved in and out of traffic, people, dogs and wagons. We all made it back unscathed and are getting prepped for another quick ride in the sun tomorrow!

Stage 2- Santo Domingo -Los Terranas: 131 km

130 km into the 2nd stage my attempt to ease into the racing year came to an abrupt end. We hit a wall of a climb with just under 20 km to the finish. There was already a breakaway of 9 riders up the road but the pack still exploded as the Colombians and Costa Ricans got excited to show off there climbing legs.
I could no longer hide the fact I wasn’t fit, or so I thought. After getting dropped pretty quickly I started to look at my surroundings and started going even slower when I noticed just how beautiful it was as the crystal clear ocean was straight below us. My body wasn’t in race mode yet as I wasn’t even close to suffering.

Things changed rather drastically when one Guadalupeine rider who blew by me holding onto a truck. I yelled at him and he let go after another 10 seconds. Not impressed I switched from touring mode into race mode and rode up to the cheater and gave him an earful then left his sorry but behind. I may have forgot what bike racing was like for a while, but I now remembered as I shifted down a few gears and shook out the frost from a winter in Canada. All of a sudden I was picking riders off right left and center. Apparently my cross training efforts from the winter were paying off and my fitness isn’t too far off where I was last fall at the Crocodile Trophy. Thanks Luke Way at Balance Point Racing for the nifty training ideas!

Still a little pissed at the cheater I road hard up to a couple Costa Rican riders and we then continued to annihilate it. Chasing them down the descent we passed another 6 riders, then a pile on the flats and eventually caught up to what was left of the lead pack (behind the breakaway) just before the finish. It was a stellar day racing through fields and under jungle foliage from south to north across the country. I may be in for a rough day tomorrow when my adrenaline-fueled efforts today catch up to me but it was worth it.

The finish town itself was a typical colorful little Dominican town with the majority of its inhabitants out on the streets enjoying the blissful weather and watching us cruise by. I’m pretty impressed with the DR after only a couple days here as everyone is pretty friendly and it has the same laid back feeling as Costa Rica. The weather is near perfect as well as the ocean keeps the country from getting to sweltering hot and the humidity is not to bad either.

Tonight we are up in the touristy village of Samana on the NE side of the country. It’s a cool ocean side town surrounded by heavily vegetated hills. Definatly a place worth considering coming back to after the race.

Stage 3 Samana-Solcedo: 141 km

The race today started up this morning, straight up for 2.5 km right off the gun. Riders were getting shelled all over the place. It was awesome. I used mountain biker tactics and hit the climb at the back of the 120-rider field, along side Costa Rica’s solo MTB Olympian, Paolo Montoya. We looked at each other with (wtf looks) as we were going to be screwed if we didn’t get over the top of the climb in at least mid field so we could hook up with some fast riders for the rest of the 140 km flat ride to the finish. We crushed the climb; Paolo went from 120th to around 30th, while I went from 119 to around 45th, just at the tail end of the chase pack, which Paolo was leading. We soon caught up to the lead pack, minus a breakaway of 4. An hour later a second chase pack of 50 riders caught us and then we cruised to the finish line as a full pack.

It was a harry day as we hit some side roads with some serious potholes and a pile of speed bumps. There were a couple solid crashes but for the most part the riders kept the rubber down. We cruised through Dominican agriculture land today, through a couple quiet little villages and ended up sprinting up a small hill into the town of Solcedo.

Tonight I am one of a large number of riders shitting liquid. We are wrecking hotel room toilets. Even the Costa Rican’s are sick. Whatever we ate is powerful stuff. Tonight we are drinking shot glasses full of grape seed extract and Oregano. If that doesn’t work then its whisky tomorrow.

Stage 4 Circuit in Santiago: 16 X 7 km.. 112km

We went around and around and around…. It was a nice circuit around the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración. A massive monument built for the centennial of the Dominican War of Independence, which was fought in 1844 to gain sovereignty from Haiti. I saw it for the first 8 laps as I cruised at the back of the pack enjoying the ride. Then the pack split and I was screwed as 50 of us were dropped and I was at the back of this gongshow. I tried hard with another rider to get back on but we didn’t have the gas. So we road around for 7 laps by ourselves in suffer mode as we tried to not lose to much time. A good lesson to remember to stay up front in circuit races. At the finish line we hit up some fresh coconut waters then headed back to the hotel for a good rest before tomorrows climbing stage.

Stage 5 Santiago- Costanza: 94 km

What we learned last night is that Dominicans like to party at the local Shell station on Saturday nights. Unfortunately for us racers there was a Shell station across from the hotel. There was music pounding, tires squealing and trigger happy Dominicans revving up there motorbikes all night. Some of the cars had the base so loud it was setting off other car alarms to add to the gongshow. We had our ear plugs but it was no use. The good thing was that all the racers were in the same hotel and none of us got sleep. As we road by the Shell station this morning we tried to figure out what attraction was to spend a Saturday night there but couldn’t come to any logical conclusions.

The stage itself was solid as we climbed over 2000 vertical metres over the course of the last 60 km of the stage. The road was unreal as it hit the top of a mountain ridge and then stayed there. The views were spectacular as we overlooked the green Dominican Republic countryside. We need to learn how to build roads like this in Canada. As for the race itself it was a pretty average day. I ended up in a group pedal from position 35-60. This got boring so I bet a Dutch friend in the pack whoever lost had to buy the first round of whiskeys after the Stage race was over. 15km from the finish we started attacking each other and left the group pedal behind. It came down to a 1 km sprint to the finish, ending with me losing in a photo finish. I guesse I’m buying. In the end it was another solid training day to add to the bank.

Tonight we are staying up in the Dominican Mountains. The cool breezes are a nice change and the green mountains are just calling to be explored. The highest peak in the Carribbean is just 20 km away (Pico Duarte at just over 3000 m). Unfortunately we will be leaving this haven behind tomorrow to head back to Santo Domingo.

Stage 6A Bonao – Santo Domingo, 79 Km

This was a sad day as we drove the first 80 km back to Santo Domingo through some awesome climbs and winding descents back down to sea level. Once the road got boring, then we hopped on our bikes and started racing, 79 flat km to Santo Domingo on a divided highway. Before we got racing though we had a good gongshow for a few minutes when our bus started to smoke and lost its brakes. We all abandoned ship. Riders started hitchhiking and jumping in the back of trucks that passed by. We got a lift in the last team car that went by and squeezed into the trunk and got to the start line just in time. The race itself was pretty average, a breakaway got away, we road as a pack & then had a sketchy sprint to the finish line. What was awesome was my mountain biker friend, Paolo Montoya from Costa Rica was in the breakaway and won the stage for us mountain bikers. Right on Paolo!

Stage 6B TT in Santo Domingo, 20 km

I use to despise Time trials. Now I look forward to them as they are great threshold training. This TT was a flat 10 km circuit around a nice park overlooking the ocean. It was hard, the first lap was a bit faster then the 2nd and I finished I think 32nd out of 90 riders. Alright for an out of shape mountain biker. Just like the mountain stages where riders hang onto the race vans (or jump inside), riders found a way of cheating and practiced there team time trial tactics in this individual TT. When I see it I give them shit and take a moral stand but its an epidemic in some races so you just have to suck it up and know those riders will never get anywhere with there cheater DNA. I dare any of them to show up at a 24 hr MTB race and try to cheat there way through that..

After the TT I had a great ride around Santo Domingo, drinking Coconut waters and eating Papayas, mangos and pineapples. I have been waiting all winter to get down here to nourish my body with the fresh tropical fruit. It hasn’t disappointed!

Stage 7 San Cristobal-Azua-Bani 139km

This stage was hot! +35 to 40 hot. We had a great ride west from Santo Domingo into some small foothills. It was going smoothly until two boneheads locked there bars up ahead of me and crashed, I skidded into them and went over the handlebars, landing on someones chain ring. Falling on chainrings hurt. On the plus side I got a free tattoo to remember the DR bye. From that point on the rest of the stage was straightforward as we had a big headwind for the last 60 km. Once we had our daily sketchy sprint through town to the finish line it was off to the medic tent to get cleaned up. There were 3 solid holes in my upper arm, nothing too serious but they will leave a mark for a while.

The highlight of the day was seeing our team captain Jean-Michel Lachance get away in a breakaway and finish 4th. He is also the mastermind behind this project and the Vuelta’s we’ve done in Costa Rica in the past. Thanks JM for making this tour happen for us!

Stage 8 Santo Domingo Circuit Race: 90 km

The final stage of this years tour was a 6 km circuit race in the suburbs of Santo Domingo. We road around in circles 14 times chasing each other. In the end it came down to a sprint with 3 of our guys coming in the top 12. My teammates celebrated the end of the tour with some beers while I got whisked away in an ambulance to get tested for dope. I appreciate getting checked for dope as it means they are trying to enforce some rules of the race and I 100% support the anti-doping effort. I do wish the organizers would do more about the cheating within the race. On this stage there was one rider that got dropped on the 2nd lap, sat out a lap, hopped back in with us, got dropped again, sat on the side lines for 8 laps, then joined us for the finishing sprint. In the end he did 4 of 14 laps. Bullsh*t at its finest! We ratted this guy out, it won’t change much as he was nearly dead last anyways but you gotta draw the line somewhere.

From the chaos of Santo Domingo to the beaches of Boca Chica to the mountains of Costanza, we have had a real nice tour of this beautiful island. The stages were relatively flat but the racing was hard and provided a great boost to all of our fitness levels. In the course of 8 days/1001 km, I went from being a woodchopper to a biker again. I believe I finished in the top half of the pack, somewhere around 40 out of 120 started. Road racing is a great way to see a country and get some high end fitness in. Most of all we had an unreal time with the team this week. The boy’s (Adam Anderson, JM Lachance, Etienne Samson, Jordan Brochu, Louis-Charles Lacroix, Juan Carlos) and the girls (Emily Roy, Maya Purcell) from Quebec sure know how to race hard and have a great time. My cheeks are the sorest part on my whole body from laughing all week.
Huge Thanks to Emily, Maya & Juan Carlos for keeping things organized for us and everything rolling this week with your great support!

The next few days JM and myself are headed back to Samana to search out some waterfalls, rest on the beaches and get some cheap dental work done. It will take a few days to get the energy levels back up after this past week of heavy expenditures. Continuing the trend of devouring fresh tropical fruits and coconut waters should have us back up to peak levels in no time. On Monday I will fly out to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to join my Kona Teammates at an early season training camp. Here we go race year 2013!

Leave a Reply