Monday, March 28, 2011

The Medalla Light Ultimate Dirt Challenge 2011

Yet another race lies behind me, and it was yet another one that turned out quite successful. Yesterday's XCO C1 (Olympic Cross Country, Category 1) international race here in Rincon came off with nary a hitch. It was a beautiful day, the venue was well-prepared, the racers were excited, and the whole affair claimed no serious injury (when one discounts the one broken clavicle that one of the amateur women took home).

Early in the morning I met with all six national commissaires who had been assigned by the Puerto Rican cycling federation to work this event, and all of them were competent, eager to work, and pleasant to be around. A great group of people, indeed. Even though everyone had worked UCI races before, they all picked up a few new things, which for me, the former teacher, is always gratifying.

The Elite Women and Junior Women take off
I wish we had had more Elite racers as this was, after all, a very high-level race on the international calendar. In years past more US Pros had shown up, but this time around only three had made it to Puerto Rico. Two of them, Olympian Mary McConneloug and her partner Michael Broderick, must be some of the most down-to-Earth racers on the circuit. Even though their title sponsors are Seven and Kenda, anybody who also sports "Family and Friends" prominently on the jersey is not someone who is making six figures a year. Mary and Mike have been traveling together to races for many years, and Mary is currently ranked 5th in the world by the UCI. Both won their respective races by large margins, while riders from host Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and even Chile came in much later. Overall, only 19 Elite Men toed the line, and fewer than 10 Elite Women showed up. (Add to that a few UCI Junior riders, and we still didn't break 40 participants for this race for which Switzerland had dispatched me from the US.) In the long run, this is not a good thing for the organizers, the sponsors, and the sport. Fortunately, several hundred amateurs later raced on the same track, but even their numbers were apparently down from years past.

US rider Mary McConneloug on the course ...
... and being interviewed post-race by race director Doel Gonzalez

Nevertheless, the organizers and representatives of the federation appeared to be happy, and we all talked about what could be done to possibly market the event better—after all, last week for the 70.3 in San Juan we had a mind-boggling 1,500+ registered athletes (although only about 40 Professionals showed up here as well).
That's the Rincon lighthouse in the back
My damn camera continues to be lost (for good, I'm afraid) and I was not able to take any pics of the race, our crew, or the really extraordinary awards ceremony (best I've seen outside of a World Cup or last year's World Championship). The photos that you see are courtesy of the official race photographer—if you'd like to see many more, check out his website at Unfortunately, I don't get to share with you the view that I enjoyed when Jorge and I went to his brother-in-law's little beach-side restaurant after the race to have dinner and a beer. OMG, it was out of this world! We were sitting there, looking out on one of the best surf spots on the island, with a rocky outcropping tufted with palms to the west and miles of white, palm-studded beaches stretching in a half-moon shape toward the east. It was simply glorious. With the setting sun,  more and more of the surfers finally called it a day, but I can't tell you how absolutely mesmerized I was by this piece of paradise. And the fresh fish wrap and the Presidente beer only put the crowning point on it all.
El Faro de Rincon
I hope to add a few photos in the next day or two (done!), once the official photographer for the race makes them available for download on his website. I really want to show you how gorgeous this race venue was and how lucky I am to live this dream—actually, those are the exact same words that Mary and I shared when we talked about their racing: living a dream. (Tomorrow night, the two racers and I are invited to a good-bye family dinner at Jorge's house, and I'm sure we'll share good stories.)

There is one last thing that I want to add to this long post about the race, as it may serve as a segue to some general comments on Puerto Rico that I hope to publish tomorrow. So, here goes: In the middle of the amateur race, there suddenly was some serious commotion among the commissaires and the helpers and organizers, and I thought I heard something about a man with a machete. First I had to think of course director Edwin (whose name is pronounced as Ahween) because he can fix anything with one of those long, fierce-looking knives, but it turned out that somewhere on the course a crazy guy with a machete was threatening the racers! Course personnel and even police were dispatched, and nobody got hurt, thankfully. It seems, the nut-ball is known to the authorities. But, and here comes the reason for my writing all this, I had sent an e-mail after the race to my friend Sabine, who many years ago had sailed in the Caribbean and who had dug out a history book on this region when she heard I was traveling here. This morning I received an e-mail back from Sabine, and I want to end with this quotation that The Caribbean Experience—An Historical Survey 1450–1960 attributes to Columbus: "On a certain island called Charis dwell a people who are considered by the neighbouring islands as most ferocious, and these feed upon human flesh. They have many kinds of canoes in which they cross to all the surrounding islands and rob and plunder wherever they can.... They wear their hair long, like women, and make use of the bows and javelins of cane, with sharpenéd spear points fixed on the thickest end which I have before described."

Could we have possibly dealt with one of their descendants? Thanks for reading, and please come back.


No comments:

Post a Comment