Vuelta Ciclista Mazatlan
A seven chapter novella of bicycles, beach volleyball, and alcohol
You might ponder the rationality of entering a six day stage race in a foreign country on four weeks of training after two spine procedures and walking pneumonia in the months prior; a country with a questionable health care system where your mastery of the local language consisted of the names of alcoholic beverages and the word for the place where you would eliminate these from your body.
You might question taking two cruel saddle sores to a place where the climate has produced 6 different words for “jungle rot”.
You’d certainly scratch your head at stuffing thousands of dollars of carefully molded carbon fiber bits into a plastic box and handing it over to people who would have difficulty returning an egg to an egg carton, after which they will hand over the egg carton to a meth addict for safe keeping.
You'd be well in your rights to declare this the act of a madman.
But I would remind you that at some point in their child’s lives, most parents place them on a bicycle, a machine would be litigated out of existence if it appeared in any modern toy store as having the fatal design flaw of wanting, in perpetuity, to throw itself to the ground.
We are all mad. Even the Amish.
Hi ho, hi ho, into the air we go.
There’s something both thrilling and unnerving about stepping out of an climate controlled aluminum tube and getting hit with a blast of hot humid air the likes of which can only be replicated by a drunken bar fly gently shouting her come on in your ear at closing time. I swear I smelled cheap bourbon in the air, though given the free first class drinks on the way down, that could just have been me.
Welcome to Mazatlan.
Through the miracle of modern science our luggage count matched the tag count and we are greeted with Mexico’s custom’s lottery, a button which (they claim) randomly gives you either a red or green light. Push the button and get the green and you could have a half ton of illicit drugs in your suitcases and (as long as you’ve paid the airlines an overweight baggage fee which probably cost more than the drug’s street value) you may pass unmolested.
A red light means molestation, or at least a strip search. For a bike racer this means explaining why you have a bunch of baggies of powder (“ees recovery-o drink-o”), or if you’re a certain type of racer, trying to explain why your dog takes testosterone and EPO.
There is no yellow light. This seems a lost opportunity.
Francis (the names have been changed to keep me from getting pounded or sued) gets the red light. While we wait for the probe I watch a customs agent working a yellow Labrador and I ponder how fun it would be to break open a suitcase full of tennis balls.
Francis intact and a half hour of haggling over the rental van later (we opt for the full insurance at rates that would make a loan shark blush, though less than they originally wanted) we are on the road.
Present licenses at the convention center, pay $42, and we are handed two very durable numbers and are asked to return at 10 AM sharp the following day wearing a team jersey. And please go pick up a T-shirt on your way out. I wait for the “Cámara escondida” guy to come out. Nope, $42 for six days and a nice medium “T”.
Check in at the hotel, assemble bikes, and in the fading light ride into town to get some food. We ride home in the dark, assuming our beaming smiles and bright personalities will prevent us from being run over, because we don’t have anything even resembling a light. This becomes more interesting as we leave the glow of the town proper, and depend on the occasional street or hotel light to illuminate our path.
Most worrisome are the “speed bumps”.
These are eight inch diameter steel half domes rising ten centimeters (I like to blend measurement systems) from the ground set 22.5 mm apart and bolted to the ground in a row across roads at somewhat random locations. Hitting one of these at speed on a bicycle would be like banging into a table leg with your knee at 30 MPH (or 48 km/hr). Bad outcome.
Very bad outcome. None of those soft gringo concrete humps down here.
We, the invincible, laugh at danger.
Tomorrow we race.