Tour por la Paz 2022
Stage 1 & 2
Voler Factory Racing kicked off the 2022 season with a dive into the deep end, heading down to Guatemala for the 5 day, 5 stage Tour por la Paz in its 10th edition. From the squad we had Blake, Colin, and one of our new riders, Cassius in the mix, along with four guest riders – Aria Kiani, Joey Bacala, Jim Maddock, and Wyatt Gaulke. We all arrived February 7th, 2 days before the start of the race, spent the evening wandering the streets of Guatemala city near the airport looking for food until some locals took us to a taco shed for some delicious food. We made our way back to the Guatemalan Olympic training facility (not as glamorous as it sounds), where we built bikes, and prepped for the journey the following day. On the 8th, we piled into Gus’ car and a Guatemalan minibus and drove for 5 or 7 hours (dependent on the vehicle you were in, Gus drives muy rapido). We drove to the Mexican/Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman where we were able to get in a lovely sunset spin ride down to the Pacific ocean to try and blow off the cobwebs after 2 days of travel.
Stage 1 on paper looked like a piece of cake. It was a relatively flat circuit around the town of Catarina, that was mostly 3ish% uphill and then 3ish% downhill and was only going to be 75 minutes long. It turned out to be a rather difficult circuit, with an absolutely wild ride through the cobbled, technical streets of the town, with speed bumps, a bridge launch, and multiple dogs on course that caused a few crashes. Out of town was just the uphill/downhill out and back that had a few speed bumps right before the u-turn on a 2 lane road and a few rather large potholes. The race ended up being pretty terrifying. I would say it was my most crash filled race I’ve ever done in Latin America and was not a stellar start to the race for us. Wyatt had his battery ripped out of his rear derailleur pretty early in the race by another riders wheel or shoe and never made it back (no caravan for stage 1). I ended up getting popped with about 20 minutes to go as the heat and climb got to be. Joey flatted just a little after I got popped after riding through a ton of glass on the side of the road. And then Aria put the cherry on top by nailing one of the huge potholes on the downhill at 35+mph on the last lap, crashing and doing a number on his bike. However, he got back up quickly and finished the stage. Colin and Cassius finished in the large lead group staying out of trouble and Jim finished just a few seconds behind them.
In Aria’s crash, he unplugged his di2 and pulled his hydro disc hose out, both things you generally don’t want to have at races like this, as finding spare or replacement parts can be…. difficult. Wyatt and our mechanic Julio got to work on his bike and after magically tracking down a new shimano hydro olive, they used a syringe and IV hose bought at a corner pharmacy and baby mineral oil from another store to bring his rear brake back to life!
On Stage 2 we were able to flip the script a bit and actually race which was a nice change of pace. The 110km downhill/flat stage started in the afternoon as the Guatemalan president was in town and luckily the temps had cooled down a little. We avoided all the potholes, crashes, and speed bumps on the downhills and the we started trying digs and getting in moves. Joey definetly had the break of the day with a late solo move with about 25km to go, that got up to 40 seconds on the field before the Columbian team with the leaders jersey shut it down. Jim had some mechanical issues that took him out of the field and I narrowly avoided a huge pileup with 11km to go, but broke a spoke. I got a quick wheel change and was able to chase back to the field with 5 km to go. We got Cassius and Colin up near the front to try and keep them out of trouble, and Cassius, Colin, Aria and I all finished in the lead group with Wyatt and Joey just a little back after both of them put in one heck of a day lighting it up off the front.
I had brought a smattering of spare Token spokes but of course they were all too long. I thought we would just retire the wheel for the rest of the trip and I would just use one of the spares, but the mechanic did something I have never seen or heard of done before. He left one half of the spoke in the hub and bent the end into a U. He took one of the new Token spokes and trimmed it down, threading it into the nipple and bent the cut end into a U. He hooked both U ends together and was able to true the wheel with new patented Latin-magic-double spoke technology. I rode it around the parking lot for about 45 seconds and it didn’t explode, so hopefully it will work for the 10,000 feet of climbing on tap for tomorrow. Pray for me.