Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay: Stage 3

Stage 1
Stage 2

Regardless of how we felt about the day's results, we still had a job to do: eat. To get food and fluids in us immediately after the finish, Amanda said she would be 100 meters beyond the finish, on the right, in the nearest shaded area. That sounds like an overly descriptive meeting place, but trying to find anybody in the throng and chaos at the end of a long race is a tall order.

Sure enough, there she was, hopping up and down shouting "Optum!" Once one or two riders find her, the rest just have to spot the orange jerseys.

As we knock back some Coke or other sugary beverage, some chocolate milk and cookies, and rehash the race, we must simultaneously fend off the crowd of people standing less than 2 feet away. It's like they've never seen cyclists before, and this new experience turns them into water bottle zombies. They can hear us speaking English, so they adopt the international "Can I have your water bottle?" pose: point at the bottle and look at you with their best impression of puppy-dog eyes. Then it becomes our job to shoot them down like a quail on the opening day of hunting season without sounding like selfish American jerks, because we really do need every last one of them.

By the end of the stage race, Amanda became a bottle-ninja. She'd have our bottles off our bike and in her backpack before we'd even stopped moving. One of her many daily tasks was to rinse each bottle out, soak them all in the tub with bleach, air them out, and then refill with drink mix/water/coke and cap them with the corresponding top so we knew what was in each.

This particular hotel was old school. No elevator, and the locks on the doors....

After showering/doing laundry and verifying that the internet connection was garbage, we set out for lunch, which would be a bit too far to walk. We stuffed all 6 of us, whose average height was probably 6', into the Geely. 2 in front, 4 in back. Even crammed next to each other we were nearly a foot too wide, so we had to offset our hips by turning sideways and offsetting ourselves, made more amusing my the fact that only one of the back doors worked. Then we set off in pursuit of food. The only obstacle: the hotel's driveway. Not willing to exit and re-stuff ourselves in there, we just committed....and left a 6-foot drag mark on the pavement with everyone watching. Americans, right?!

Lunch, nap, massage (stacking two squishy mattresses together and schooching to one side...a massage platform slightly firmer than a water bed), Steve Irwin (croikey!) with Spanish subtitles on a 15" TV, the walk of the unconnected (wandering around with laptop in hand, searching for a signal), and it was time for dinner.

This time we piled into the Geely while it was in the street with about 50 people laughing at us. When the door closed, they applauded.

At breakfast the following morning, I nearly lost my appetite when I looked at the ham and cheese. So I had a few pastries, some shortbread cookies, and knocked back a few glasses of the yogurt. Then I went back to my room to dunk a few oreos in dulce de leche. Nutrition is key in these long stage races.

The stage start was a few miles away at the old velodrome. We signed in, they started the neutral rollout, and we slowly headed over to the big park only a few blocks from the hotel where they stopped us so that we could start the race. Confused yet?

Anyways, the stage finish was 100 miles away, so to make the stage a bit longer we would do a handful of hotdog loops around the park. It was in the turnarounds that I first realized that hardly any of the other racers knew how to handle their bike through a corner...a symptom of 100 miles races that have 2 turns.

The race wasn't very interesting. I don't really even remember much of it...the usual attacks, the full-gas pace at every sprint/KOM (I've been saying KOM, but really they just picked out the biggest false flat in the area to put a line at the top of...most KOM sprints averaged 30+mph for over a minute).

4 hours after starting, it was time to get ready for another sprint finish. The distance markers weren't in quite the right spot with 10 and 5k to go, and we got to the front to start leading it out. Then the 3k sign came well after we'd expected it to, and we backed off the pace just a bit too much and got swarmed. By the time we made the last turn, I had been pinched off and was nearly at the back again, but at least I was on the inside.

The final turn was a fast left-hand sweeper, and I sprinted up the inside and took it hot. Remember how I said they can't turn well at speed? Well, they missed the apex by a long shot and I could've fit 3 of me side-by-side through that hole. I stayed on the gas and motored up to the front, just like stage 1. Ken hadn't lost any positioning because he's brilliant at negotiating a pack...I still had learning to do. Only Zirbel was with him, though, and as I reached the front he was ramping it up. I slid in front of him but surged too hard because I was too excited and gapped him. Ken jumped around and slotted onto my wheel.

I looked up and saw the big banner up ahead, just 500m away. I put everything I had into the pedals, and about 300m from the banner I started sprinting. The Brazilians' leadout train was right next to me. I kept going, kept going, and finally had nothing left. I looked between my legs and saw Ken's white shoes on my left side, so I faded right and dropped anchor to watch the sprint unfold. Just as I was going crosseyed, I made out the words on the banner.

"Bienvenidos a Paysandu"

Uncomprehending in my exhaustion-induced stupor, I just happened to see the plywood on the side of the road: "1K". Further up the road, the finish banner had just come into view.

I had burned my last match to dump our sprinter into the wind with a kilometer left to race. He was unable to get back in the draft with good position or fresh legs, and came up short in the sprint.

If we were upset after stage 2, we were livid after stage 3. We'd failed to assemble properly and take charge even though we could have, and we'd left Ken hanging out to dry. The tension was building.

-Okay, seriously. Are the missing bikes going to show up?
-Can we find our mojo again?
-What's a chivito?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay: Stage 2

Stage 1

While Ken was off getting his picture taken in the race's first yellow jersey, the rest of us rehydrated as best we could and set off for the hotel at Amanda's direction. After stashing the bikes in the underground parking garage for Bob, we found our rooms. Amanda had been busy--our race bags were waiting for us, along with sandwiches (sure, they were just ham and cheese, but she put mustard on them! A condiment!!!), bananas, chocolate milk, and cookies. To top it all off, this was a nice hotel. Morale was soaring.

My first task was to visit the very nice bathroom and let the demons out. I don't know what caused it, but it was not cool. And it would be another half hour before our big bags showed up and I could get some medicine.

In the meantime, I took the standard stage-race shower. What's that, you wonder? It's where you shower, then handwash your race clothes while you're in there. Don't even bother unpinning your numbers, just wash it all together, wring 'em out, and hang 'em up on the balcony. Then they're ready to go the next day!

The internet was even reasonably fast! Spanish Simpsons was on again, and the afternoon couldn't have been more relaxing, as we opened up Ken's victory presents like it was Christmas. Just from what I can remember from the 5 bags he brought back, there was a leather-encased cutting board and knife set, a bottle of Scotch, various household items like air-freshener and bug spray, and a few athletic t-shirts. Not a bad take.

Actually, the one thing that would have been nice was if we could've gotten the AC to work. While we sorted that out, we left the balcony door open to let the breeze in.

Before heading out for dinner, I meandered over to the grocery store to stock up on a few items. I filled my basket with cookies, a jar of dulce de leche, and other items that I would have no trouble getting down in the coming days. Also, I got a few bottles of gatorade and pedialite to rehydrate after my intestinal episode.

Dinner was predictable and uninteresting except for the part where Zwiz terrified a young boy on the walk over with a very creepy, very deep, "Hola..." The boy ran inside to fetch his dad, who hustled outside, only to then laugh at the harmless gringos walking along.

On the way back, Zirbel stopped at the grocery store for a carton of ice cream. He needed help finishing it, and I'm proud to say I jumped on that grenade. It's called being a teammate. You should try it sometime.

Before going to bed, we attacked the AC unit one more time with the only tools we had: safety pins and ink pens. I'm sure you're surprised to learn that our efforts were fruitless. So, we resigned ourselves to sleeping with the balcony door open, serenaded by the sounds of the street and its alarmingly loud scooters and stereo systems.

I awoke freezing cold, the AC blowing full-blast on me. Zirbel had grown weary of the noise outside and closed the balcony door. Wouldn't you know it, there was a tiny sensor on the door that triggers the AC.

It was another early wakeup for us, as we had a transfer before the stage started. The standard breakfast was growing old already, but I ate what I could and shuffled onto the bus for an hour of ipod time. I didn't know if my stomach issues had been resolved or were merely subdued as a result of the immodium. All was quiet on the front lines for the time being.

We rode the bus, the bikes were carefully leaned against one another in the bed of an empty dumptruck.

Stage 2, 103 miles. We were excited. As the team with yellow, we had to be extremely careful not to be caught out of any move with more than a few guys in it. The one thing we could not do this early in a 10-day race is to miss the move and be forced to ride the front. So we were all amped up, ready to wreck shop again.

Ken was extremely anxious, can't you tell? Painters tape on our stems marked the sprint/KOM points and other key notes
So the racing started, and then the most bizarre thing in all my racing experiences happened.

There were a few attacks, but nothing was getting away. Then, with nary a word, the entire front half of the field settled into a giant rotating paceline. I'm not kidding, 40 riders pulling through steadily. Riders from every team except ours. There was a gentle breeze from the right, so there was a slight echelon covering most of the road.

We didn't know what to make of it, and were afraid to talk about it and jinx it. The kilometers ticked off one at a time, with nobody off the front. A sprint point was coming up and the attacks started a few kilometers out, but immediately afterward the field wordlessly settled into its rotation again.

Like I said, bizarre.

I made a game of staying in the sweet spot as long as possible. Where might the sweet spot be? I shall try to paint you a word-picture.

Picture if you can a very large rotating paceline, fading gently from right to left, rotating in a clockwise direction. On the upwind side of that rotation, there is always a stream of guys that don't want to take a pull but want to be near the front. So they'll tuck in as close as possible to the rotation while skirting up near the front, effectively getting 75% of a draft. With nowhere to go once reaching the front, they inevitably begin falling back when they are passed by more riders on the upwind side doing the same thing.

Basically, they are making a wrong-direction rotation on the upwind side of the actual paceline, while trying to stay out of the rotation. Pretty ironic, huh?

So, the sweet spot: Right in the middle of the counter-direction rotation. By staying a little bit further back and holding the advancing riders on your upwind side, you become sandwiched between the advancing and falling lines, but staying in the same relative place in the peloton. It's pretty entertaining. I even made a picture of it in Paint because I have that much time on my hands.

We continued on like this until mile/kilometer 60/100, then just as inexplicably the race went nuts with attacking. It became very painful very suddenly. The field broke up a few times and then chased back together (in the gutter). My legs were feeling a bit flat, but not terrible. Ken had been caught behind one of the splits, so we worked hard to get him back up there.

As the final kilometers approached, the field was all together. All was calm for the time being as teams prepared for the sprint. I was working on getting to the front to set up the leadout when the 3K to go sign caught me off guard. Just then the field went full-gas and guys in front of me let go of the wheel in the gutter, and I never got up there. I chased all out, but ended up losing 40-some seconds in the final few K as nobody would help me chase.

The guys set up their leadout, but Zirbel was caught by surprise by a median in the final turn. He managed to get over it safely, but at the expense of one of our precious HED wheels. Ken got 6th without even sprinting...he had missed the 1K to go sign and didn't think the big banner was the finish banner. To be fair, the 1K to go sign was a piece of plywood with a spraypainted '1K' on it, propped up at the side of the road. And the 500, 200m to go 'signs' were simply words spraypainted on the ground. It wouldn't be the last time that one of us missed those signs.

There wasn't a lot to be excited about that time. Ken had lost the yellow jersey to bonus seconds at the finish. We were down a tubular wheel without backups. The bikes were still missing. I had lost time due to inattentiveness.

But tomorrow was another day, and we were determined to get that bitter taste out of our mouths.

-Will the bikes show up?
-Will I think of more euphemisms for stomach issues?
-Will I create more ridiculous drawings in Paint?
-Can we get back into our groove and start winning again?
-Will we turn to the Geely to cheer us up?

Wohlberg overwhelms the Geely with awesomeness

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay: Stage 1

New to the party? Get caught up with yesterday's post.

Breakfast the next morning, besides being nearly 45 minutes later than the posted signs said, was--you guessed it--a repeat of the previous day. The little ham and cheese sammies weren't too filling, but I was more interested in the dulce de leche (Caramel for breakfast?! Don't mind if I do.) and the yogurt. After all, it's a 10-day race and getting just a little behind on calories can have huge repercussions later.

Our more astute readers caught the foreshadowing in that last sentence.

Anyways, the bikes had not arrived from the airport yet. Our 'guide' was Carlos, a man strikingly similar to my late Grandfather, so that was a bit bizarre for me. He had grown up in Uruguay and knew everyone, and had secured for Soladay a more suitable loaner bike to race on should the bikes not show up in time.

We headed out for some openers to get the legs going again, while previewing the TT course for later in the week. Aside from blowing snot everywhere, I felt alright.

When it came time for our post-ride massages, we faced our first logistical challenge: Amanda's massage table was among the missing luggage. Nothing slows Amanda down, though, and we had our massages on a long folding table with a bench cushion atop it.

Amanda had to joke about it during the massage, "Just think, someday when you're old and wrinkled, you'll be telling your grandkids about that time in Uruguay..."

"...that the airlines left behind our luggage..."

"...and you got a massage on a folding table..."

"...with a pew cushion for padding...."

" the hotel hallway because the rooms were too cramped...."

"...with the automatic lights that kept turning off...."

"...and the Colombian director that awkwardly complimented your tanlines...."

Dinner was okay. Dessert was great. Who doesn't like flan and its flobbery wobbliness?

A quick shot of the sunset and it was off to bed after enjoying some Spanish Simpsons to brush up some more. I was enthusiastic about [re]learning another language.

I stole this photo from Zirbel
5:30ish wakeup...and my sinus issues had mysteriously disappeared. We had to have our bags downstairs before breakfast so they could meet us at the day's finish. I used the early wakeup to sneak some time on the internet--we had realized the day before that all the  racers in the hotel crashed the internet pretty easily, and the best bet for a connection was first thing, before everyone got up.

Breakfast...same story, just more chaotic. I managed to eat a good deal, as I was motivated for the race.  Before heading back to the room, we snagged our Clif products for the day from Amanda's roller bag so she could put it on the truck. This was tricky...Amanda only packed exactly as much race food as we would need for the race, and half of it was in the missing bike bags. We were operating under the impression that the stuff would show up in time.

Another logistical issue: we had no backup bikes, and only 2 sets of spare wheels in case of flats, one of which Bob was borrowing from another team.

We had a contingency plan in place for the bikes to find us should they show up, since we would be traversing the country over the next few days. Fingers crossed.

Another logistical issue: race bags. Our big luggage was on the truck, but we still had our backpacks with a change of clothes so we didn't spend all day in our chamois. Normally, dealing with race bags is not an issue. But when this is your caravan vehicle, space is a concern:

Wohlberg being all kinds of awesome in the Geely
Thankfully, Amanda made friends with the Brazilian team (FunVic) and would ride with them to each day's finish in their team van, along with our race bags.

Before rolling to the start of my longest race ever, I made the morning visit to the restroom. Everything was fine. Jersey back on, start walking, immediately flip a u-turn and get back in there because everything is no longer fine. Uh-oh.  I'd been careful! No fresh fruits/veggies, and only bottled water! And my medicine was in my big luggage. Mental note: medicine goes in the race bag from now on.

The start was the usual affair...roll to sign in, stay hydrated, and wait around. Stage 1 was 121 miles from Montevideo to Trinidad.

Speaking of 'stay hydrated,' our final and most delicate logistical issue: water bottles. Want to guess where half of them were? For the time being, we only had 55 water bottles. It's Uruguay, so it's warm. Figure on 6 bottles/day/rider for 6 riders, and you have a logistical issue. We couldn't just get more bottles, either. The only bottles available down there are the little ones with the pop-tops that you get for free in goodie bags at Fun-Run 5K's, that rattle around in the bottle cages. We, with our big-mouth screw-top bottles, were the envy of everyone.

Also, there were no feed zones. 1000 miles of racing, zero feed zones. All feeding would be done from the caravan, which would mean dozens and dozens of runs of fetching the empties from teammates before heading back to the car to get more bottles. And yes, that got tedious pretty quickly.

Time to race!

On the way out of town, we crossed a few railroad tracks...and dodged a lot of small water bottles that had been sent skidding.

My first thought when racing started? "Racing down here is much louder than in the States!" We had a dozen police motorcycles giving us a rolling enclosure, and their sirens were always on.

I hadn't given much thought to the race route, but it was quickly apparent what was in store for us: highways. The average road in Uruguay is pretty rough, so the only suitable roads for racing were highways. 121 miles, 3 turns.

Any racer can predict the style of racing on a road that is straight, flat, and wider than the peloton. It was very aggressive and very fast. The wind was gentle, so it was just attack after attack. There were two pro teams racing: us and Movistar Continental. Anytime we moved, riders were on us like flies. The accordion effect was the name of the game--as an attack was caught, the front riders would sit up and the back would come blasting by. With only 120 racers, you could find yourself at the back in a hurry because the field inverted so quickly. Conversely, you could also get to the front quickly.

It was just fun racing, plain and simple. Constant attacking, staying in the 53x11 all the time. As the team with the largest aggregate weight and height in the race, we were biding our time for some serious crosswind sections. The wind was blowing gently from the side, but not enough to do much damage. That is, until the Sprints or 'KOMs' came up. Then the field would go full-gas in the gutter for a few kilometers. I kept getting caught off guard when they would do this, and I got split off 2 separate times.

The first time, I worked hard to chase back on, but soon realized that these guys were absolutely cutthroat in the gutters. In America, it's tough to get an echelon going in the crosswind. You move over, they follow, but you cannot get them to pull through. In Uruguay, they won't even follow you out into the wind because they think that means you're blown. Only after you're well off the back will they work together at all.

The second time, I sat in and let the other goobers pull us back on. Also, I didn't have much choice. My stomach had recently notified me that it would no longer be accepting donations. Any time I went hard, things got...uh...intestinally uncomfortable. So I had to wait for that to settle down.

The break that Ken was in finally came back (he had somehow snuck away to bridge without any of the other teams seeing him), and we decided to do the blow-by leadout with 1.5K to go. That involves getting ourselves lined up on the outside, but hanging back until the last minute before exploding to the front for one all-out effort.

I got pinched off from the guys in the chaos with 3K to go. I had to get back up there, they needed me. But I was stuck in the middle of the pack, which gave me one option: the long way. I had to back off and work my way to the edge of the pack, slowly falling backwards. Finally I was on the outside, at the very back, with 2K to go. The guys were already taking the front without me, and I had to get there immediately so they wouldn't drop Ken off too soon and leave him hanging. I blasted up the side of the pack straight to the front, sliding in front of Zwiz, and set about using my last match of the day to get them to the last corner, a K from the finish. Before the corner, Zwiz took over, powered through, and then Zirbel gave Ken a monster pull to drop him off with 250m to go.

For those that have never done it, giving a proper all-out leadout is miserable when you're also trying to finish on same time.... That sprint took forever, and I just managed to stay with the lead group to the finish.

I rolled around for a few minutes trying to find out the outcome, fending off all the children asking for my water bottles. It was hard to be concerned about anything else when I finally found out:

First Optum UCI win in 2012
Ken and Carlos

It was a tiring, but rewarding day
-What will become of my stomach issues?
-Will the bikes show up?
-Will SuperKen make it 2-for-2 for the Americans?
-Does the ham and cheese start tasting better?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay: Arrival

Now, after many months of delay, I bring you a story too wild to drop on you all at once. Instead, I'll spread it out over the coming weeks, one stage at time.


With the exception of a day in the Bahamas on a Disney cruise and a day trip to B.C.--both in middle school--I had never left the country before. I had just finished 4 days of racing at Redlands, and here I was on my way to Uruguay for 10 more days of racing.

My feelings vacillated between unbridled excitement and subdued anxiety. Racing out of the US is precisely what I had been hoping for for some time now, but I am my mama's boy. The unknown scares me, and I was about to get a heaping serving of new experiences abroad.

Thankfully I wasn't going in completely blind--Bob, the team mechanic, as well as Zwiz and Reid, had all done the race before.  Having been warned, I prepared the best I could.  A couple boxes of granola bars and $10 of Pepto and Immodium later, I was ready for Uruguay.  I hoped I was, anyways.

The morning began early, and there wasn't enough room in the shuttle to the airport. I sat on the wheel well, quietly hoping my sniffle--Zirbel had come down with one, too--was only allergies irritating my sinuses.

The stack of luggage amassed by 6 riders, a director, mechanic, and soigneur was a veritable mountain.

After checking the first few bikes, the team was informed that only 6 bikes were for sure getting on the plane, which would be completely full.  After assigning priority to the race bikes, it was decided that the TT and backup bikes would go on last, as they wouldn't be needed for a few days.  My TT bike had slipped through, though, and we just had to hope it wasn't at the expense of a more important bike.

At 23 years old, the first leg of the flight to San Salvador was my first experience of being surrounded by a language I couldn't understand.  Sure, there were those 4 years of Spanish way back in high school, but if I remembered any of it I would at best be able to read signs and menus.  My ears perked up and mind began racing every time I heard a familiar word.  My two-week crash course in Spanish had just begun.

During the next layover in Lima, I wandered about, taking in all the hubbub around me.  In search of food, I found a little deli kiosk and picked out a ham and cheese wrap.  They accepted US$, but I had to understand the price in spanish.  No problem, though--the in-flight movie had been "In Time", in which there was lots of numbers. And I, the international travel noob, had watched it in Spanish because I didn't know there was an english audio channel.  On the bright side, I remembered my spanish numbers now!

Sitting down to enjoy my $6 wrap, I was dismayed to find it nothing more than ham and mozzarella tightly wrapped in a tortilla.  After two bites, I was bored with it, but I choked it down nonetheless, oblivious to the foreshadowing of this first meal abroad.

The third and final leg into Montevideo was a redeye flight on deja-vu airlines.  Another flight full of passengers speaking a language I didn't understand, the same in-flight food, and the same in-flight movie.  I simply tried to sleep, but my nose had been switched to full-flow mode.  I wasn't sick, though.  I wasn't in denial, either, I'll have you know.

After landing in Montevideo, Uruguay at 3am and getting through customs, our intrepid crew set up camp at the carousels.  It was like Christmas morning, only we smelled worse and weren't sure our presents would show up.

The carousel buzzed, and everyone craned their necks, hoping to see good news paraded by on the conveyor belt.

The bags started coming out, followed soon after by the bikes.  The tally stopped 6 short.  With nothing left to do, the missing bag claims were filed and everyone climbed aboard the bus headed for the lush Kolping Hotel Escuela.

It was nearly 5am by then--24 hours of travel.  Bordering on sleep-deprived delirium (I can hardly sleep on planes), I popped my headphones in--you couldn't carry on a conversation over the engine spewing noise and fumes--and took in the new country around me.

As the bus driver straddled the lanes through town (they were merely suggestions), I entertained thoughts of Jason Bourne taking refuge in the dilapidated apartments lining the boulevard.  Yes, I certainly needed sleep.

The hotel parking lot was gravel.  Half of the lot was outside the gate, along the street. The other half--where 12 more cars could fit in theory--was more like a grass-covered garden.  Even at 6 am, the streets were busy as our crew shuttled the bikes up to the hotel.

The inner parking lot at the hotel
Finally, keys in hand, we weary travelers were destined for sleep.  My first lesson in personal space outside of the US came when the elevator door opened. I thought I'd mistakenly called the dumbwaiter.  There was scarcely room for 3 people with bags, and only then if they were bumping shoulders.

We could do nothing besides chuckle when the room's door swung open to reveal our living quarters.  On the other side of the bathroom wall began the first of four twin-size beds, the last of which ended against the far wall, slightly underneath the windowsill.  The common fear was that this would prove not to be the least comfy hotel of the race...

The next 3 hours were passed in a fitful sleep for me, dreaming of a long day of travel with some sort of sinus ailment, only to end up sleeping on a small bed with loud traffic outside. Then the alarm went off.

Breakfast was a modest affair.  The selection included ham and cheese sandwiches, of the pre-assembled and make-your-own varieties.  Lest you conjure up an American affectation of the ham-and-cheese, let's be clear: this was a slice of ham and a slice of mozzarella between two slices of white bread.

"A bit bland," I thought, "but I can handle this."  Naivete is cute, right?

Also available were shortbread cookies--some with dulce de leche--and some sort of liquid yogurt that was actually good.  I had a glass of that, then another.

With breakfast completed, it was time to ride.  Bob had worked through the morning with no sleep and had the bikes built, even securing a loaner for Soladay, as his race bike was among those missing.

We pointed ourselves towards the beachfront a couple miles away and wove our way through traffic to get there. I was pretty entertained by the organized chaos that is their traffic system. The road was 4 lanes wide at points, but without any sometimes it was 5 lanes and sometimes 4. Traffic wasn't very fast, but it had a good flow to it. What killed me, however, was the low-quality fuel everyone was using. The exhaust fumes wreaked havoc with my sinuses and I couldn't stop sneezing.

We ventured into the downtown square to see the giant statues of military men on horseback. As we rolled back down to the beach to conclude our spin, I sat up to take a picture.

Zwiz caught up to me and said, "Hey, you should probably slow down before going through the intersections..."

"Why? We don't have stop signs..." I replied, confused.

"Yeah, and neither does cross-traffic." I put my camera away and began slowing just as a car blasted through the next intersection. It's an interesting method of traffic-control, to say the least.

After returning to the hotel and getting cleaned up, we headed over to a cafe where the race would be providing our meals when in Montevideo. Most of the other teams had not yet arrived, so we had lunch alone. The race had hired a local chef that hosted the cooking segments on the morning news to prepare our meals for our two-week stay. We were pretty excited about that. The meals started off on a good note, at least, with some potato salad, half a roasted chicken each, and ice cream bars for dessert.

Morale was pretty good at that point. We were ready to destroy some South American racing.

Will my sinus issues mysteriously disappear?
Will the food continue to pleasantly surprise?
Will the missing bikes show up?
Will the team be able to hold their own in the races?