I’d owned my road bike for about three months when I struggled through my first century ride in Savannah, Georgia. It was death march, but I survived (barely) and now I thought I was a real cyclist. Feeling pretty full of myself, I noticed a poster in a local bike shop describing La Vuelta, a ride around the entire island of Puerto Rico, peloton style, coming in just 4 months.
“I’m in!” I thought to myself and immediately tried to recruit the store’s staff to go along, but it was not to be. The logistics didn’t work, even for me, and the Vuelta would have to wait for another year. And by another year, I meant the next year: this year, 2016. And guess what, I went, I rode La Vuelta! I didn’t conquer it, I didn’t master it, I didn’t even really challenge it. In fact, La Vuelta kicked my ass. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a few good stories and I’d like to share some of them with you.
If you’ve ever thought about riding a grand tour, if you’ve ever watched the Tour de France and thought, “I wonder what that feels like?” I want to tell you that riding in the Vuelta is as close as you are ever going to come. It was hard, really too hard for me (at least this time) and it was grueling, it was fast paced (even in the C group) and: it was brutal. It was also one of the best experiences of my life and I can’t wait to go back next year!
I’m going to tell my story of La Vuelta over several blog posts. I’ll tell you about the ride itself, about the mistakes I made, the condition you need to be in, how to pack and just about everything else you might want to know if you are considering the ride. But I also want to tell you some of the stories of the people I met, of the beautiful island nation of Puerto Rico, and why I can’t even imagine not returning to give this ride another try.
The utter joy of cycling, for me, is that I can get on my bike and ride as far as I want to, there is almost never a time when I am happy that my riding day is over. I got to ride beyond my heart’s content in La Vuelta: the ride is consecutive days of 153 miles, 80 miles, and 130 miles. You ride from sun-up to sundown, supported by rolling vans, plentifully stocked rest and lunch stops and you are even escorted by motorcycle police. It’s done in some of the most beautiful scenery you are ever likely to see and you are accompanied by 500 other friends who feel the same way.
La Vuelta is, any way you describe it, an adventure.
I can’t wait to tell you all about it.