Dominican Republic Days 1-4
By Bradley Wiggs
When you pack your bag for a multi-week international bike race, there are lots of things you have to remember. A bike may be the most important thing, but it doesn’t work well without pedals. Guest rider Cameron Hawk realized he didn’t have his pedals after reaching SFO, but after a bit of a panic, a call to the local bike shop, and a message to an Uber driver, a pair of Dura-Ace pedals showed up at the airport in time for him to make his flight. Blake Anton, our team captain, a veteran bike racer, and the organizer of most of our international trips, gave Cameron a hard time for his mistake, but it was all in good fun. Our flight from Mexico City to the Dominican Republic went smoothly enough, and after reaching our housing site for the next week, we decided to build our bikes before taking a nap. It was at this point that we discovered that Blake had also forgotten to pack both pairs of his pedals like a total amateur. He has been riding on one Shimano pedal and one Speedplay pedal this whole week with a mismatched pair of shoes to complete the ensemble.
Our racing kicked off with the single-day Gran Prix de Ciclismo, a 110km mostly flat circuit race. Early on, there were lots of attacks, and after covering a couple of them, found myself in a group of twelve riders off the front of the field. We stayed away for the entirety of the race, and although the downhill tailwind sprint finish didn’t suit my strengths at all, I finished 5th. The team was happy with how the race went, and after a quick ride back and a shower, turned our sights to the 41st edition of the Vuelta Independencia, a seven-day stage race out of Santo Domingo.
The first stage was mostly flat with some large rollers, and the team worked consistently to stay in good position. After two KOM sprints, the pack had split into multiple groups, and as they came back together, Kyle Kirby rolled up to me and Colin Patterson and told us, “Yo, it’s about to snap.” Trusting that Kyle was right (he almost always is), Colin and I jumped to move up to the second group on the road, and using my speed, I made it to the first group of about fifteen riders. A few more riders made it up to us, but as I looked around, I realized that I didn’t have any teammates. Minutes passed and suddenly, Colin rode up next to me, followed by Nate Freed. The cavalry had arrived.
We continued, and after Colin recognized a decent move go up the road, jumped off the front, taking a rider from Bermuda with him. Another Bermuda rider and I followed them. After catching one rider and being joined by four that bridged to us, the breakaway of the day was formed, comprised of nine riders. With 100km left, we settled in and began rotating through. The gap grew, and after it reached five minutes, I realized we were going to stay out. The group reached 30km to go, and while I was feeling good, Colin was not. He started cramping and began sitting on while attacks began flying off the front. After covering a couple moves with about 10km left, I looked back and realized we had dropped Colin. Bummed, I continued to cover attacks while trying to figure out how I wanted to approach the finish. One rider from the Dominican team ACT jumped with 6km left, quickly putting distance into us as my breakaway companions scrambled to respond. I quickly checked behind us to see if I could see Colin, and was surprised to see that not only could I see him, he had reattached himself to our group after clawing his way back into the breakaway. I was elated, but knew I was still going to have to sprint for us, as Colin’s legs were surely going to be thrashed. Boy, was I wrong. Three kilometers out, Colin went off the front by himself, preventing me from having to do any work into the finish. He left us, cruising in more than twenty seconds ahead of us and right behind the winner. I finished third in the sprint. Voler Factory Racing p/b OVCB, 2nd and 5th on the day, with over seven minutes on the chase group and quite a bit more than that on the rest of the field. Not a bad first stage.
The second stage did not go as smoothly. Starting about 10km into what ended up being a 190km day, I experienced stomach pain and discomfort that had me absolutely miserable for most of the race. Unwilling to leave Colin as our only rider in contention for the overall, I tried my best to stay at the front of the pack, but found myself sitting at the very back multiple times. With multiple crosswind sections and the potential for the field to splinter, this was less than ideal, and Kyle, Blake, and Nate made countless trips to the back of the field in order to get me out of trouble. Finally, with about 40km left, my stomach had had enough. I waved at Gus, who was driving our team car, jumped off my bike, and did my thing on the side of the road while traffic slowly passed. After what seemed like ten minutes but was actually two, I was back on my bike. Nate stopped as well in order to pace me back up, and we sat behind Gus as he paced us as far as he could before hitting traffic. Nate and I bombed through the traffic at 50-60kph, drafting where we could and making our passes as safely as possible while keeping our speed. Finally, we made it back to the caravan and back to the front of the field in time for the finale. Blake did an admirable job setting up Kyle and Cameron, but with a sketchy road split and an unmarked curb on the final sprint, Cameron fully missed the turn and Kyle was forced to scrub some speed before the finish, ending up 14th. Fun fact, Kyle’s best three finishes at the Vuelta Independencia have been 14th, 14th, and, you guessed it, 14th.
Stage 3 was a little shorter than the previous two, and with me and Colin still having solid spots for the overall, we were content to let a break roll with another contender in it knowing that team with the biggest presence, ACT, would bring it back. Cameron absolutely crushed it and ended up in the breakaway, riding exceptionally well up the climbs before the break was caught by the peloton. Rain, roughly twenty speed bumps, local traffic, and a very sharp off-camber turn about 200 meters before the line made for an extremely interesting finish, but Colin, Cameron and I managed to keep it upright and roll in with the front pack. Unfortunately, Kyle broke multiple spokes within 2km of the finish, missing out on another opportunity to finish 14th. After Nate and Blake rolled in, we mixed some H24 Rebuild recovery drinks, changed into our street clothes, and hopped on a bus back to the housing compound to prepare for four more days of racing.