Titan Tropic by GAES – Stage 2: Soroa to Soroa

Titan Tropic by GAES – Stage 2 Soroa to Soroa

Written by: Shannon Boffeli

The first competitive stage of Titan Tropic 2016 was a painful wake-up call for most racers. While yesterday seemed like a solid introduction to racing action it was a recovery spin in comparison to the grueling action of stage 2.

Crashes, blinding dust, searing pacelines, and rough roads challenged riders throughout the day. In total riders made a 104 kilometer loop south of Soroa before ending up at the finish again.

Jen Hanks and Shannon Boffeli working with a group on stage 2 -Image courtesy of Titan Tropic by GAES

While the racing was hard the cultural experience couldn’t have been better. Starting with cane fields and processing centers we made our way into more remote sections of Cuba. Gone are the classic American cars of Havana, out here the ox and horse still rule. If Havana seemed to be stuck in the 50s the area around Soroa is a trip back to preindustrial revolution.

Life is difficult in this part of the country. That didn’t stop residents from every home flooding into the streets to greet the riders with cheers and big smiles as they passed by.

For us stage 2 was DIFFICULT. The terrain was very flat and constant roadie tactics were needed to find your way into a group and protect yourself from the wind. It was far from “road riding” however. Imagine hammering along at 25mph with your Saturday morning road ride and suddenly the pavement drops away for half the field, then the other half of the riders plunge a foot below road surface into a pothole only to pop out just a quickly. Then the group reforms with just enough time to do it all over again. Now imagine you repeat this for three hours.

Making our way to Soroa. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli

That’s how our day felt. By the end brain circuits were completely fried, legs burning with lactic acid, and a stomach serious pissed off about a lack of food.

Our day went as well as could be expected. We avoided multiple pile ups and our only crash was when Jen tipped over after the leader of our paceline led the whole group into a foot-deep tractor rut.

We managed stick with a fast group for most of the day and managed to leave them all behind as everyone else faded late in the day.

On the road to Soroa a Cuban local enjoys the country’s #1 export. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli

For the first time, after all our stage races as a team, we crossed the line first, an exciting turn of events after a tough day.

For the first time we’ll go into tomorrow’s stage with a lead to defend. It should make for an interesting week.

Stage 3 is the longest of the Titan Tropic at 119 kilometers and perhaps the most scenic taking the race from Soroa to Vinales. This stage includes multiple large river crossings, mountain climbs as steep as 18%, and the unique mogotes (haystack-shaped limestone mountains) of Valle Vinales which make it a Unesco World Heritage site.

Jen prepares her bike for a grueling stage 3. Photo by: Shannon Boffeli