December 25, 2011 (Cabo San Antonio, Cuba) – I first joined a cycling club, Houghton Clarion, in 1959 (now Houghton CC). I was 13 years old and crazy about the likes of Fausto Coppi and his arch rival Gino Bartalli. The club had its own clubhouse and was a great place for cyclists of all ages to get together and share cycling in all aspects. My love for cycling has never waned and now at the age of 65, and having done so much cycling and had so much fun doing it, I thought I’d gotten all of the thrills possible – racing, touring, making frames, running teams, and various bicycle related businesses – wrong again Peter. I had never been part of a bicycle marathon ride and as it happens neither had my friend and sometimes cycling partner Alberto.
All we knew about marathon cycling was that lots of riding would be a good idea, so we started with that. But Alberto needed a better riding partner than a 65-year-old so he persuaded his buddies to come on long rides. But when he was looking to go on 200km or 300km jaunts his pals told him he was nuts. Undaunted he rode alone, all over this island – a knapsack and an iPod were all he had with him.
Good fortune came our way when I got a message from “the Sport Lab”, saying they’d like to help. We were in the dark about nutrition for such an ordeal. Scott & Lowell (SportLab guys) asked all kinds of questions about Alberto and the climate here in Cuba and then sent down the fuel along with instructions. We then conducted a 300km test ride from Santiago to Holguin and back. It took just over nine hours and we were very happy. In all those 300km Alberto never got off his bike (no, not even for that)J.
Crew and rider flew to Santiago and picked up our rental minivan the cost of which was scandalously high but on a good note was perfect for the job. We covered it in decals and drove to Baracoa, the eastern starting point of the ride. The next day Alberto touched the hand of the Christopher Columbus statue and headed west, up over Paso Cuba, doing close to 400km before his first 90-minute nap in the home of a cycling coach in Las Tunas.
His last break was in the city of Pinar and he awoke to the news that he needed to ride around 30kph for the next 195km. Not good news to get at 3am after a cat nap. We knew the road was rough but he refused his road bike and took the very stiff TT machine. Alberto cruised at around 40kph for the next two hours on roads so bad I had trouble keeping up with him and I had to hand off to our co-pilot Juan Carlo. Further down the road we caught a break when we hit a very long section that had been recently re-paved and our man pounded into the daylight. Eventually the surface went back to its horrible self and he did slow down but he still kept going on the TT bike.
What may puzzle some of his pals is that Alberto is a track rider, recently winning two gold medals at Pan-American Masters Championship. All his long distance trading did not seem to hurt his pursuiting ability.
Juan Alberto Pena, you are one hammer head cyclist and I am proud to have been in your team !