The penultimate stage of this race includes a long, steep, and hard 45 minute climb (probably more) that’s followed by more climbing to the town of Constanza high up in the mountains of central Dominican Republic. It’s a super cool area that I had been looking forward to the entire week. The pictures below don’t do it justice but shows a glimpse of how big and steep these mountains are and how they’re covered with small farms, houses, and villages. This is the Dominican I love. It’s out there away from it all with incredible beauty and simplicity. Shacks with multi-million dollar views elsewhere in the world.
Shacks with multi-million dollar views elsewhere in the world. Driving back to Santiago from toward Constanza.
This is the stage that would pretty much decide the GC and with too many skinny climbers from South American countries that are probably about as clean as the gutter on the side of the road here, (More on that later. The crap you see… can’t say that someone who’s dirty is the smartest guy in the room.) I decided to get in the breakaway before the climb hit since I knew I’d probably get dropped in about the first five minutes of the climb given my current fitness or lack thereof. It was super windy and it was going to be a challenge to get a decent gap on the field but the three of us managed to build our gap to over three minutes. We dropped the Movistar Equidorian guy in our break making for just myself and an IRT rider (new American Conti Team). It was pretty sweet being at the front of the race on a big mountain day as fans and the media were all about you. We eventually got caught by the leaders and I was able to stay with them for a little bit but they were flying. While I was still first on the road I could hear the chaos behind. There were the race vehicles but then there was a herd of 20 or 30 motorcycles all wanting a close up view of the action. When I finally got dropped I thought I was going to get run over. It was steep and I was a bit spent so wasn’t going very fast. By the time the main group caught me there were only like 10 guys left. I was with them for a bit and got dropped again and found my way in a small group a bit off the back of them. It was much more relaxed being away from all the craziness ahead.
That craziness eventually caused the UCI Officials to stop the race because there was dangerous traffic coming down the mountain along with the herd of motorcycles causing mass chaos. Apparently the guy in the lead was hanging on to a motorcycle since the commissarie couldn’t get through the moto’s to officiate. On top of that, apparently a rider got hit by one of the spectators trailing the leaders. They stopped the race half-way up the climb where we sat for probably 20 minutes waiting to see what was going to happen. At first we thought we were done and that we’d just ride back down the climb to busses to go back to the hotel but then it was decided that we would ride easy (except it isn’t easy riding a steep climb in 90 degree heat, I was a bit cracked) to the top of the climb where we would start again with our time gaps. Apparently before we got to the top the police were trying to stop traffic and ended up shooting two people who wouldn’t stop. I guess it was wrapped up before we got there but just part of the craziness here in the Dominican. From a cow pasture above the little town we stopped in to change and catch the buses back to the hotel. As always the photo doesn’t do it justice. The view was incredible here. How about a loo with a view? Check.
It would have been crazy to start the race at the top of the climb as it was a crazy twisty fast descent and fortunately the first riders to the top kept going down the other side whether they were told or not. I stopped at the top since right behind was all the regular traffic that included a lot of trucks that the officials didn’t stop. I wasn’t about to go down this descent with the road filled with trucks and other crazy vehicles. It proved good as when I found a gap in traffic I started down but quickly came to stopped traffic where I’m not sure what happened but some cars were parked sideways in the road with a bunch of drivers and truck drivers out almost dueling it out. It was good though because the stopped traffic gave me the whole road.
We ended up going down part of the descent and the race commisair and team cars had stopped and were discussing what they were going to do. They wanted to start the stage there but they didn’t stop the first riders so they kept descending down and some ended up riding all the way to the finish since no one told them to stop. They ended up cancelling the stage but we had to ride another 10 or 20k down to a small town where there was a road back to our hotel. We finally got our team cars and were able to change and get some food and water but had to wait probably an hour for the busses to show up to take us back.
The whole thing was beyond ridiculous but it was in a really cool place so I didn’t care. I got to take in the sights. The mountains were super steep and endless. They were covered in tropical green jungle along with farms interspersed in the valleys and on the steep hillsides. There were also a number of greenhouse type contraptions which were probably more to keep the mid-day sun from over scorching the produce. The houses we past were definitely small run down shacks but the people around them were always out doing something or conversing with each other and really excited to see you go by. I really wish this race had more than just the one stage up there. Maybe someday I’ll get to go and just ride and explore. It would probably be perfect for a mountain bike as there looked to be tons of small farm type paths going up the mountain sides. At least in other places I’ve found the people that live in these areas to be really interesting and different from the people you meet down in the bigger cities. They live simple lives and know nothing else and they are seemingly happy doing it. We should learn a little bit from them.
Seemingly the race gets more and more chaotic as we go so we’ll see what the last few days bring.