All’s well that ends well. That’s probably the best way to sum up the Pan Ams. What started off as a bit of a gong show…well probably still was but we managed to adapt to it a bit better.
Given that I got back from Europe late Monday night, spent Tuesday and Wednesday studying/writing a final/packing with a little bit of spinning thrown in and then had another 12+ hour travel day Thursday, I went in to the weekend with a little bit of intrepidation about how my legs would be feeling (plus the additional factors of an altitude of 6000ft and 30+ degree weather). Nevertheless, another good race experience, and one that I missed last year when Pan Ams had to be postponed because of the swine flu outbreak. The flight down to Dallas went off without a hitch, and despite a rather long lay over there we all made it onto the flight into Aguascalientes. As soon as we got on the flight and realized there were probably 10-15 cyclists on the tiny plane…well we knew the luggage saga was likely going to start. Sure enough, we had ~7 bags missing between 5 of us including my road bike (and clothes) and all of the mechanic’s luggage, which included my TT bike. Onto the coach bus to head off to the hotel. And of course at 10pm they turn on all the TVs on the bus and start blasting Latino dance music videos. Something you had to be on the bus/in the situation likely to appreciate, but we weren’t sure whether to cry or laugh or both. And we would come to dislike the buses much more over the coming days.
Friday was pretty uneventful. We got our first “feeding site of ciclists” experience. For some reason, although we could have breakfast at the hotel, we all had to load up onto buses and travel 20 minutes to half an hour to a random hall somewhere in Aguascalientes for both lunch and dinner. I don’t know if things had changed since H1N1 but we were always greeted at the door with a squirt of hand sanitizer and all the servers wore masks. I still had no bikes, but thankfully Laura Brown had gotten her track, road and TT bike, so I was able to use her road bike to get out for a bit of a spin (hence the always carry your pedals, helmet and shoes in your carry-on). There’s only one American Airlines flight into the city every day so going to bed Friday night I wasn’t sure if my TT bike would show up, or failing that even my road bike. Contingency plan: Laura’s road bike. We were supposed to be able to go see the TT course but the transportation plans fell through, but as we found out the next day the course wasn’t exactly as close as everyone had been saying and we were likely better off not spending 2 hours in car getting there.
Luckily enough, I woke up Saturday morning, headed to breakfast and found out both had my bikes had arrived. The only downside to this was that I hadn’t seen let alone ridden my TT bike since last August. Anyway, off the TT course that was theoretically a half hour away. Add in the usual slow departure of the bus and the fact that it was really closer to an hour drive, and we rolled in with 45 minutes ‘til start. Scrambling to build rollers, get through bike check, see a bit of the course, try and get my bike to fit properly (which it never really did quite) and get ready didn’t entirely make for a great warm-up. In retrospect, that likely wasn’t great for me given the significantly less than fresh state my legs are currently in. The course was basically rolling up on the way out and down on the way back x 2. The first lap wasn’t too bad for me (although was likely never going to be a great ride). Then towards the end of the first lap some sweat rolled down from my TT lid and into my right eye. A few blinks later and I realized it wasn’t just water in my eye making it difficult to see…my contact was gone. My glasses' lenses are close enough to coke bottle proportions, so this situation definitely wasn’t ideal. Made it around onto the second lap alright, but things went downhill, or maybe just down, at the second turn around. I really don’t know what happened, but coming out of the 3rd turnaround with 5km I must have hit a patch of gravel on the right side, and not being able to see it, didn’t expect it and I was on the ground. First time I’ve ever done that on a TT bike. Rolled in for 11th, and at least gave the commissaires at the turnaround a good laugh. They had fun imitating my fall when they came back to the start house where we were sitting watching the guys' race.
Yesterday was the road race, and it went significantly better. We all had our bikes by this point and luckily got to race first at 9am so we escaped the heat of the day. The course was a relatively rolling 15km circuit with a slightly uphill finish. We were going in with the defending champion, so the goal was to try and defend that, with a strong 6-person US team + all of the South American teams against the 4 of us. Really, it worked out about the best it could of. It wasn’t a super aggressive race and when attacks did go we could either cover them on just sit on the Americans as they brought stuff back. The group did split up a bit, but for that last couple laps all I had to do really was keep Joelle in good position and make sure nothing dangerous slipped away. It came down to a fast finish, with a powerful US lead out that about all I could do was drop her off on it. We came up a little short but Joelle made it onto the podium for 2nd and I was 8th, finally getting some UCI points that remained elusive in Europe. We stuck around to watch the guys race a pretty brutal 170km in temperatures that had to be approaching 40. Did a little support work helping with feeding and got in the follow car for a few laps, another interesting/different experience in South America. A Chilean rider put in an impressive performance soloing probably 5 laps, or almost the entire distance we did, for the win.
It was an adventure, but we all survived, some without luggage until 5 hours before we flew back, and earned our trip back to Canada. The trackies are still kicking it down there for another week, so good luck to them! I’m looking forward to a couple weeks of rest and actual training. And then onto an action packed June!