Written by Colin Patterson
Usually October is considered the offseason for bike racers. A time when we get sit indoors and watch movies or cruise around town on an easy spin. But this October, we are doing just the opposite. After a hard crash forced me out of the Tour Cycliste de Martinique, I was left hungry for more. So postponing my relaxation and easy spins, I decided to go do the Vuelta a Guatemala, a 10 day UCI 2.2 stage race. Thanks to a very supportive group of classmates and professors, I was able to leave school for the last two weeks of October.
Arriving a few days early, we hoped to acclimate a bit to the high altitude and humid weather. We were fortunate enough to be shown around and hosted for the first couple days by our local race director Gustavo Carillo. We got a chance to scope out the final climb to the Queen Stage and instantly knew it was going to be a brutal stage.
Stage one started out of Guatemala City’s Parque Central and after a surprisingly hard neutral roll we promptly descended several thousand feet. After hitting the first KOM of the day we realized that this stage with only 3,000 feet of climbing was going to explode the field. Ending on a long and hot climb into a small town, fans were ecstatic, launching confetti bombs and setting off fireworks.
Day two saw a very similar scenario play out. Dave fell behind early due to a mechanical and chased the remainder of the day. The slightly mellower day allowed us to enjoy the dense, green hills and occasional volcanoes. Ending again on a longish climb I was able to stick with the group going over the top but the rest of our flat lander crew did their best to save their energy for tomorrow’s Queen Stage.
After the stage we got to enjoy the rare easy spin back to the next hotel in El Progreso where we got a chance to explore the local scene and enjoy a genuine Guatemalan banana split to fuel up to survive the following big day.
We were all worried about stage three. With around 10,000 feet of climbing over 80 miles and ending on a 3,500 foot climb back up to Guatemala City, we knew it was going to be a hard one. Long story short, after a couple small crashes for Dave and me, I had to expend too much energy chasing back on, and ended up getting popped on the final climb and dropped out of the top 20 overall and the GC hunt. For many of us, that was one of the hardest days of racing.
After the stage and a glorious lunch at the finish where we got to meet many of the great people that help put on successful races like this, we got to visit the local KTM bike shop. La Biela is the first KTM dealer in all of Latin America!
Finally, stage four rolled around for the flattest stage of the race. As the biggest team in the race, we knew this was one of our few chances to pull a good result. Unfortunately, the blazing hot stage didn’t go as planned. We rode brilliantly until 15 km to go, when our plan fell apart as we were plagued with a crash and two separate flats on the terrible roads leading into the finish town. After an hour transfer to the hotel, John’s hip ballooned up like, well, a balloon. He’s off at the hospital now for x-rays. Hopefully he will be able to soldier on to race tomorrow as we look to enjoy the toasty and flat time trial for stage five.
The food, organization, and hotels have been excellent and everything has been running on time, which is a pleasant surprise! Six more stages.