Racing and Touring Gravatai & Santa Catarina, Brasil
Tour of Gravatai, April 2011
My road cycling team J.A.M Fund / NCC flew to Brazil for two UCI five day stage races early April of 2011. We started out as five, but only four could make the journey: myself, Alec Donahue, Jeremy Durrin, and Rodrigo Marchetti.
Rod is the man who organized everything, and is also who got us invited down to Brazil in the first place. Kudos to him for doing an amazing job guiding us through his beautiful country. The Brazilian cycling federation arranged all of our transportation, accommodations and food. So for a brief period of time, we experienced what it’s like to be pro cyclists.
None of us were ready for such a high caliber of racing, but we were approaching the race with open minds and highly anticipating the experience with hopes to make the most of it, and having a great time while gaining lots of fitness to bring back to the states.
None of us, besides Rod, knew what to expect in Brazil, or how the racing would compare to the States. I expected terrible infrastructure, dangerous and poor quality roads, and a dollar that stretched across the country. I was also worried aggressive riders would be forcing me off the road while guys with superhuman endurance dropped me within minutes of the start.
It turns out, to my relief, besides the stretchy dollar, I was mostly wrong.
The first day started in downtown Gravatai with around 100 riders under a hot sun at 9am. The stage was 180km long with rollers for the first half followed by a very flat and windy second half to the town of Torres.
It should be noted each day was a point to point road race with a rolling enclosure so we could use the entire road.
The start was very fast with numerous hard accelerations, and I was thinking if it stays like this I’m toast, for sure. Fortunately after about an hour the pace settled down and became quite manageable. Easy, even, though we were cruising at an average speed around 26mph. Once we hit the flat second half of the stage where we rode past wind farms along the Atlantic coastline, it was fairly easy to stay in the draft especially on the inside which was nicely protected by the wind.
With about 30km to go the pace picked up to reel the break in, and it suddenly became very difficult to stay in the peloton. We were flying along at 30+mph for the last hour and for the last half hour steady attacks over 35-40mph kept me keep deep inside the pain cave. The sun was brutal with temps hovering in the 30C range, and I had a pounding headache to boot.
With about 10km to go there was a fairly steep hill, and my legs were feeling good so I attacked up the hill. About 5 guys went with me and we stayed away for about 10 seconds from the peloton before easily being caught again. After that I decided to just coast my way to the finish safely inside the draft.
The first day was long, and the high temperatures coupled with a sun continuously beating down upon me made for a tough start. After one day I was seriously wondering how I was going to do this for four more days. My experience with the peloton was excellent. The other teams were all South American with a few continental pro teams from various countries, and I was relieved to discover they are incredibly professional riders. The vast majority have top notch bike handling skills, and are very polite and courteous.
The hotel we stayed in was a resort on the beach, and was a great place to unwind after a long, hot day on the saddle!
Results after day 1 - same time as leader besides the three sprinters who got time bonuses.