Hey everyone - sorry to have missed all the riding that would have happened this weekend with the (relatively) wonderful weather, but I arrived back home last night at 4:30am after a week spent riding in and around Holguin province, Cuba. So I guess I am not all that sorry, but it would have been nice to see you all again.
Anyway, as many of you may know for the past couple of years I have made a trip south to South Carolina in March with a bunch of fellow cyclists to kick start early season racing fitness. This year, rather than spent 17+ hours driving (each way!), a group of us decided to subject our bicycles to the whims of airline baggage personnel and flew into Frank Pais International Airport in the City of Holguin, Holguin Province, Cuba. Once there, we embarked upon some fairly significant riding covering 800km (and over4000m of climbing) over seven days, including one monstrous 189km day.
We selected Holguin province because of it allowed us to stay in one of the resorts in the Guardalavaca area (55 km north of Holguin City) and because I have spent a fair bit of time working on a project for a client in Holguin City and have previously (although admittedly, more than 15 years ago) travelled significantly through the non-touristy parts of this province.
Fortunately, there are very few cars or other motorized vehicles in Cuba and many Cuban nationals travel by horse-drawn carriage or on fairly heavy (and old) single speed cruisers. Drivers in Cuba are very much aware of cyclists and other "slower" traffic and will typically will also give you a wide berth when passing.
Given the lack of cars (and because for many Cuban nationals, even the cost of a motorcycle is beyond their reach), its not surprising to find a fairly large cycling community. We ran across many local riders, all of whom were thrilled to ride with some Canadians.
The temperature this day was in the low to mid-20s. Seemed pretty warm to us, but this guy was riding in a jacket and leg warmers! Guess it's all what you are used to...
You might also have noticed that local rider is sporting club colours for Different Bikes - a shop based out of Vancouver, B.C. Cuba does not have a significant consumer culture so local riders are very much dependent on the generosity of visiting cyclists. Their bicycles typically represent an incredible and inventive mixture of bicycles. We met one cyclist riding a 1970s Italian steel frame with a 1980 cyclecross single front chainring setup mixed with a fairly recent (2000s) six speed rear that looked like it had been taken off a childs bike. He`d mounted the rear cassette onto a 1990s 700c wheel manufactured for a 9 speed cassette using a series of nuts and washers to space the cassette over the freehub assembly.
Here he is as second wheel on one of the climbs. I wished I had a close-up picture of the bike - I would have swore you couldn`t do what he had done. More incredibly, the whole thing weighed over 30lbs but nonetheless he was able to keep pace with us until the very final 20km of our 189km day.
He was so grateful to us for pacing him home on the past 20 km that he invited us into his home to meet his family (wife, daughter, and father) for traditional Cuban coffee (very different from what the resorts will serve).
I am on the far left - I look a little awkward as I was rushing to get into the photo before the timer counted down. Oh well, I have looked far worse...
I could write a whole lot more about my trip. No doubt I will bore many of you with the details over the next few weeks! For now, I will just thank the gang at WattsUp for giving me excellent winter base work, QB for loaning me his (excellent and amazing) Biknd bike travel case, my partners in travel Lawrence Akot (second from left) and Mark Crawford (far right), and my family for not complaining that much when I left to go to a resort in Cuba. Honestly, I really did ride my bike!