La Vuelta Independencia Stage 1
Racing in Dominican Republic always has its hardships. Language barriers, different foods, questionable water, and the Caribbean’s hot and humid climate in addition to the hard race terrain and heavy competition always prove racing down here is difficult. I have done this race twice before so I knew what to expect but also was aware of how hard this week would be. The first stage of this year’s six day, 1000 kilometer race was looking to be a long one. On paper the stage was slated for a 170 kilometer rolling stage on a 15km circuit, however once we add in the short ride to the start and the 20km “neutral” the day ended up to be right at 195kms.
This was to be my first race of 2018 and my first race as a full-time rider for Marc Pro Cycling. With everything in mind, my plan for the day was to just ease into the week and surf wheels all day. Just like any first race of the year, I didn’t quite know exactly how my fitness would stack up against the rest of the deep field filled with Olympians, Ex- Tour de France riders, and so on. I ended up sticking to my plan till we entered the circuits about 20kms in. Once we had started the circuits there was a breakaway that had established with about 6 riders in it. The two strong professional Dominican teams, Inteja Pro Cycling and ACT(Aero Cycling Team) both had two riders in the break which made it a potentially dangerous move. After having a quick word with Blake about how this might actually put us on the back foot I immediately followed an attack from another rider and we immediately had a gap on the peloton. The two of us had about 30-45 seconds to bridge to the break so we buckled up and started riding pretty hard to get across as quick as possible. After a fairly quick bridge, we caught the breakaway which made us 8 in total.
The break worked pretty well with each other and our time started creeping up passed two minutes on the peloton. Behind me there had been some attacks and a chase group of about 8 had formed with teammate Gavin Murray. About 100 kilometers in Gavin’s group had caught my break and we now had close to three minutes on the peloton. In this larger break, almost large enough to be considered a split, both Inteja and ACT had four riders each with a couple other teams having two or more riders as well. The next 80 kilometers would consist of ACT or Inteja sending an attack and then the group working to bring it back. Going into the last lap a lot of guys had been bested by the heat and fast pace so the break was down to about 12 guys. An attack went with the last Inteja rider left in the break, Diego Milan, a couple ACT riders, and a Novo Nordisk rider. Unfortunately, somehow Gavin and I had both missed that split which put us in a bad spot for a good finish. The group Gavin and I were now in was sort of a ghost ship at this point. Most everyone was blown and had excepted their fate however there was still a couple riders who had some legs left. With about 10kms to go the break with Diego had about 30 seconds on our group.
On one of the last rollers of the day both Gavin and I attacked out of our ghost ship group and put in a full out effort to catch the break. We were able to make contact with the front group with about 5kms till the finish. The run in to the finish was a bit downhill and then a fairly steep hill for the last kilometer. With nearly all of my matches gone from the last effort of bridging the gap I told Gavin that he was our guy. After a lot of cat and mouse going into the last kilometer I led it out and I started my sprint with Gavin on my wheel up the last hill. With about 200 meters to go I saw the front wheel of Diego start to come around me and I gave it one last push as my legs started cramping in disgust of what I was demanding from them. Gavin quickly came around as well as a two ACT riders and the Novo Nordisk rider. Gavin ended sprinting into fourth and I rolled in to a sixth. Not quite what we were hoping but not too shabby in the least bit. We had put about 8 minutes into what you could consider a diminished peloton. A hard but good start to this long race. We look forward to tomorrow and the rest of the racing that follows.