pedal home

Cuba Diary '04

Skylands Cycling
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Conclusion
Conclusion October 14-17

The races are over and it's Saturday, our only free day before flying home tomorrow. The school bus is leaving for Havana at 10:00 a.m., and John and I are going in for a visit to the Partagas Cigar factory, some lunch and some sightseeing.

Thursday and Friday were the road race and the criterium and I tanked in both of them. In the road race, which was three laps around a 12-mile circuit, a Cuban, Alberto, attacked with more than thirty miles to go. Few successful breakaways are launched so early in the race, and nobody paid much attention to this guy. But the Cubans, lead by Eduardo, the time trial winner, controlled the front of the pack and before long, a motorcycle pulled along side telling us Alberto had more than a one minute lead. By the end of the second lap, the lead was more than three minutes. When a couple of Cubans and a Mexican took off just after the bell, I was too tired too respond. I had to let them go.

The next day, in the criterium, I felt more recovered. The course was a one-kilometer asphalt motorcycle track with no sharp turns. The Cubans started attacking from the beginning. I felt good, and chased everything, but every time I'd get on the wheel of one of the attacking Cubans and we'd open a gap, he'd slow down. I'd yell "venga, venga," or "andale, andale" but the Cuban plan was not to tow me away from the field. They wanted to tire out the contenders, and they did. When Eduardo the fastest Cuban attacked, I missed the boat, because I was back in the field, resting. He eventually lapped the field, pulling a tall Trinidadian along with him.

When these two caught up with the field, Eduardo did a strange thing. He went to the front and started pushing the pace for the last few laps. The guy from Trinidad, who never would have been in the break without Eduardo, sat in, recovered and beat Eduardo in the field sprint. In a way, this was a good thing. Bike racing is popular in Trinidad, and this tiny island nation sent a big team to these Pan American races. It was good to see them nail a gold on the last day.

The school bus stops near the big cathedral by Havana Bay, not far from an outdoor market of many tent-covered stalls. Most of the people get out. We persuade the driver to take us to the Capitol building, about a mile away, where we can walk to the Partagas factory. There are guided tours, but the next one is at one thirty, and the timing doesn't really fit into our schedule. We go into the cigar store on the first floor of the factory. It is small and crowded. We have to kind of elbow our way around. The store sells all brands of cigars, not just Partagas, and we intend to buy some, figuring they will be more aged, and therefore a lot better, than the black market cigars we have been smoking. I admire the biggest Cuban cigars: the Montecristo A, Partagas Lusitania, the Vegas Robaina Don Alejandro. The "A" is a full nine inches long. Now that's a cigar, mate.

You don't have to buy a whole box in this store, you can get individual cigars, and that's our plan--get a few good, aged cigars to smoke along with our black market stock. They run around $10.00 apiece, give or take a few bucks, depending on the brand. Some of these big Cubans would fetch fifty or sixty dollars in a Wall Street bar back before the tech bubble burst. There's a lot of competition for the attention of the few clerks in this busy store, and I get impatient. I convince John that we should go find another official, government-approved cigar store, a little more off the beaten path. Of course, we have no idea where such a store might be found, but I think that if we wander around central Havana long enough, we'll probably stumble on one.

Wrong. As soon as we get a few blocks away from the capitol, the neighborhood starts to deteriorate. Not only are there no cigar stores, there are no stores. Wandering aimlessly as we are, we attract the attention of a tall, thin Afro-Cuban man who looks to be in his thirties. He asks in Spanish if we want to buy cigars. I tell him that we do, but that we want to buy them in a government store. This idea draws a look of disgust from the Cuban guy. He says his brother works in the Cohiba factory, and we can save big bucks if we go with him. Cohibas are the most frequently counterfeited cigars, and you have to be really careful buying them on the black market, although two dollars for a cigar made in Cuba of Cuban tobacco is a bargain whether its counterfeit or not. Some of the counterfeits are so good, it takes a real expert to tell them from the real thing. So I'm not about to fret over getting beat for some counterfeit Cohibas in Cuba for fifty dollars a box.

I tell the dealer we don't want to buy a whole box, just a few individual cigars, and he says that's OK. He's a nice guy, personable, even though he hasn't spoken a word of English, and I find myself agreeing to go with him to wherever it is he wants to take us. We start walking and John, following, says "where are we going?" I tell him the guy has some good cigars, and we don't have to buy a whole box. John goes along. I ask the Cuban guy his name. "E-sock," he says. I repeat the name, and realize he's saying "Isaac." I suggest to him that Isaac is not a Cuban name. Isaac grins and nods. "Mi madre es de la Republica Dominicana." His mother is from the Dominican Republic. That explains it.

"You don't speak English?" I ask him in Spanish as we walk side by side down the middle of a narrow Havana street. He tells me he speaks Spanish, German, Italian and French, but not English. A few minutes later, we come to a busy street and wait to cross. When there's a break in the traffic, Isaac starts crossing, waves to John and me and says "come on, let's go" in English. "I thought you don't speak English," I say to him. "I speak a little," he says, laughing. This guy speaks so many languages, he forgot he could speak English.

A teen-age girl appears and starts walking along side Isaac. It's his daughter and her name is Olga. She's seventeen. I don't ask him how a Cuban girl with a Dominican grandmother and a father named Isaac got a name like Olga. Russian names are not all that uncommon here.

After walking for about ten minutes, we stop at the entrance to a narrow two story building in what seems like old Havana, although I'm not sure where we are. Isaac opens the door and starts walking up a narrow stairway. Olga follows. It's dark, at least compared to the bright sunlight outside. When Isaac gets to the second floor, he opens another door that seems to go outside. I'm about two thirds up the stairway when I hear John saying "where are we going?" I look behind me, and John is at the bottom of the stairs. "You really think we go up there?" John asks. "Sure," I say. "Why not? Come on."

I follow Isaac and Olga out the door and back into the sunlight. There is a balcony running along the side of the building and we walk across it. Below is a kind of courtyard with some big plants, high grass and a couple of old tires in it. Clothes are hanging from a line that has been strung from one end of the balcony to the building on the other side of the courtyard. There's a guy standing by a door wearing an undershirt and black pants, smoking a cigarette. He nods and says "Buena." I respond with "buenas dias, senor." That's kind of like saying "good day, sir" to the guy who pumps your gas. It's a little overly formal, but the Cubans seem to like this kind of stuff. The guy in the undershirt gives a little bow as we pass.

Isaac opens another door and Olga goes in. He motions for John and me to follow. We enter a little room, no bigger than 10 x 10, with a low ceiling. There's a couch on each side of the room with a coffee table in the middle. There's barely room to walk, but it's kind of cozy. John and I sit on one couch, Olga on the other. "Tu vives aqui?" I ask. Do you live here. Isaac nods, excuses himself and goes back out the door. While he is gone, I ask Olga how old she is, even though Isaac already told me she is seventeen, and if she goes to school. In less than a minute, Isaac returns with another guy, whom he introduces as his brother. We shake hands, and the brother starts taking boxes of cigars out of a plastic bag.

One of the boxes is beautifully lacquered light-colored wood, and contains a selection of thirty limited edition Cohibas with double bands, one saying "Edicion Limitada 2004", and the other the regular Cohiba band. There are four different varieties: Pyramidos, Esplendidos, Robustos and a smaller Corona-sized cigar. I select several of the cigars and ask how much. Isaac's brother apologetically tells me that, although he'll sell single cigars from the other boxes, he can't break this one up because it is too valuable as a collection. I see his logic, and after some fast and furious negotiations, agree to buy the whole thing for sixty bucks. Not bad. This box is really something special. John picks out several single cigars, Montecristos and Romeo y Julietas, in the smaller sizes he prefers. The brother gives us a few small cigars with no labels for free, thanks us, and leaves.

Isaac asks for a commission of five dollars on the sale of the cigars. I ask him if he will also be getting a commission from the seller, and he cheerfully admits that he will. "You are a good business man," I tell him in Spanish as I give him the five bucks. John and I light up the free cigars, enjoying a smoke with Isaac, who's puffing on a cigarette. We chat for a while about the U.S. before John and I get up to leave. The Cubans are always curious about the U.S., as we are curious about their country. For two countries so close together, we don't know very much about each other. As I walk across the balcony, Isaac hollers to me and I stop and turn around. Isaac walks up and points to my pocket. A wad of bills is protruding from my shorts. I shake my head and thank Isaac as I stuff the money back in my pocket.

Down in the street, we flag down a taxi-cycle. A guy named Renee mashes on the pedals as John and I sit on a bench seat behind him, a canopy over our heads. We look down at the single chainring and it is wildly wobbling as it goes around. I tell Renee we are bicycle racers and ask if he wants some help. He declines.

It's just about noon, and we ask Renee to take us to a restaurant. He pedals the taxi for several blocks and the grand dome of the capitol appears. He continues for several blocks past the capitol, down a small street with no sidewalks and pulls up outside a tan stucco building with no sign. Renee yells through a closed wrought iron gate and a guy in a white jacket comes out, opens the gate and beckons us inside. He shows us to a small, plain room with four tables inside. There are flowers on each table. An air conditioner is blasting away and it is, as they say on the Weather Channel, unseasonably cold.

The waiter's name is Alejandro. He is young, and speaks to us politely in Spanish. We ask if cigar smoking is permitted in this small room and he says something like "sure, this is Cuba, what do you think?" We bite the ends off Cohiba Robustos, light them with a disposable lighter the waiter brought, and drink Bucanero Fuerte beer. I ask Alejandro to turn the AC off and he complies, which makes the cigars easier to light. After speaking exclusively in Spanish with Alejandro, I ask him if he speaks English. "Yes, I do. Are you American?" He replies in perfect English with no accent. I ask him what makes him think we are American. He flashes a broad smile and says we look like Americans. I press the issue. "How do Americans look?" Alejandro smiles broadly. "Big and white," he says in Spanish. John is 240 pounds, fair haired and fair skinned. "What about me," I ask. I'm 165 pounds and well tanned from a week in the Cuban sun. "You look German," he says. Thanks a lot.

We both order lobster, John's grilled with garlic and mine cooked in tomato sauce. Cuban style, Alejandro called it. There's beans, rice, vegetables, yucca and a few other things along with our lobster, and it is all delicious. The lobster is some of the best I've ever tasted. We order Café Cubanos after lunch, but Alejandro tells us the machine is broken. I settle for a glass of Havana Club aged seven years, straight up. John has another Bucanero. We finish our cigars.

The tab comes to about $30.00 and that's probably the American price. Cubans would no doubt pay considerably less. We pay and head outside, where Renee is waiting for us as we instructed him to do when we went in. There is now another taxi cycle with him. He motions to us to get in the other rig. He points to his tires. "Gomas. Bad." He says. Literally translated, goma means rubber. Among other things, it is also the word for tire. We get in the other taxi and leave. When we offer to pay Renee, he tells us to pay the new guy, Samuel, pronounced Sahm-well, and the two drivers will work things out. Pretty convenient.

It is time now to head over to where the school bus will be waiting. We don't exactly know the name of the place, but we know it is near the harbor, by the market , by the big cathedral in Habana Vieja. After we repeat this description of where we want to go a few times, Samuel nods and says he understands. On the way, we ask Samuel to stop at the Partagas factory. John wants to buy a few non-black market cigars. He goes into the factory store while I wait in the taxi. Holding my box of limited edition Cohibas in my lap, I am approached by a couple of the black market cigar dealers who are loitering around the Partagas factory trying to intercept some customers. "Where you get that?" one of them asks, pointing to my box. I point to the national capitol building across the street and jokingly reply "en el capitolio." In the capitol. The guy smiles a little, but doesn't laugh at my wisecrack. "How much you pay," he asks. I tell him the truth. "Sixty." He shakes his head and says no twice. "Limitada?" he says, like it was a question. "Ochenta o mas." In other words, this collection of limited edition Cohibas is worth eighty bucks or more on the black market. Thanks, pal, I think, you made my day.

John comes out and hands me a couple of cigars. A Romeo and Juliet Churchill and a Partagas Lusitania. The naming of cigars is a pretty interesting process. Obviously, they sometimes go outside of Cuba for the names. I have heard that it was once a common practice to read to the women who worked in the factories hand rolling cigars, to pass the time while they did their monotonous, repetitive work. The women enjoyed hearing Romeo and Juliet so much, a brand was named after it. "Churchill" is a size, seven inches long and about 47 millimeters around. It is so named because it was the favorite size of-you guessed it-Sir Winston Churchill. The Lusitania, of course, is the ship that was sunk by a German sub which is said to have started World War I. Don't ask me why they named a cigar after it.

Samuel pedals east for several blocks through the crowded and narrow streets of Habana Vieja, old Havana, slowing down and speeding up, moving left and right, like a pro cyclist navigating the peloton. After a while, he turns into a small and deserted alleyway between two big old sandstone colored buildings and stops. He makes a motion with his hand and tells us the market is around the corner. We have to get out here, and I'm guessing that he is not permitted in the area around the market, probably based on some territorial imperative among taxi drivers. He wants ten bucks, for his services and the services of the other taxi for about three hours. We give him fifteen and walk around the corner into a big plaza by the bay, with big trees and market stalls covered by white cotton canopies.

Next to the market, there is a long row of classic American cars for hire as taxis, all beautifully kept, mostly from the mid-fifties, a few from the late forties. There are also several little yellow box-like taxis with drivers in crisp blue shirts standing beside them. No wonder the cycle taxi let us off around the corner. This place is obviously the big leagues for taxis. No bent-chainring bike chariots with bad gomas allowed here.

We can see our yellow school bus parked next to a wall that runs along side the narrow opening which is the entry to the wider Havana Bay-La Bahia de Habana. Behind that, we can see the huge fortifications and big cannons on high ground overlooking this passageway from the western side. Lots of nasty warships have prowled these waters over the centuries as different countries have taken their turn dominating Cuba. I'll bet those cannons have sunk a few.

We have some time before the bus is scheduled to depart so John and I take a walk through the market. There are three long rows of stalls and we squeeze through the space between them with the other tourists. There's hand made lace, paintings, humidors, leather handbags, clothing, wood carvings and lots of other high quality goods on display, along with the ever present black market cigar merchants. "You want cigars?" they ask quietly. John walks quickly and I lose sight of him.

One of the stalls is filled with Cuban percussion instruments: maracas, guiros, clavets, bongos, congas, bells and a few other drums and wooden devices I've never seen before. Percussion is the heart of the unique and deeply moving indigenous Afro-Cuban music played on this island. It is not unusual for a Cuban band to have four or five different percussion instruments all playing different sub-rhythms at the same time.

I pick up a guiro and fool around with it. The guiro is a dried and lacquered hollowed out long necked gourd with a square hole cut in one side and a series of grooves cut in the other. You hold it gently by the edge of the sound hole and drag a stick over the grooves. The resulting sound is kind of like a car going over rumble strips. If you listen to the beginning of Oye Como Va by Santana or Tito Puente, who wrote it, you can hear the sound of the guiro quite clearly.

The proprietor of this stall gets out of his chair and approaches, holding up his index finger. He takes the guiro and the stick from me, holds the stick in the air, then starts counting uno, dos, uno dos, as he drags the stick across the grooves. Twice down, once up. No counting on the half-beat. I think I get the point of this little lesson in guiro playing: you have to drag the stick fairly slowly to elongate the grating sound it makes. I give it a try, counting uno, dos as my instructor did. The Cuban smiles and nods. By George, I think I've got it.

I put the guiro down and pick up some clavets. They are a pair of round, wooden hardwood sticks, about six inches long and an inch across. One stick has an opening drilled lengthwise down the center with a sound hole in the middle. The other is solid. You hold the hollow one loosely in your left hand, sound hole down, and hit it with the solid one. It makes a kind of clicking sound that you hear all the time in Cuban music, especially in the traditional style music called Son. The beat is always one, two-one, two, three or one, two, three-one, two. I start banging the two sticks together, tapping my foot to keep time, and counting in Spanish-uno, dos-uno, dos, tres. The proprietor picks up a big guiro and starts playing. Drrrrrrr-drrrrrrr--drrr, drrrrrr-drrrrrr--drrr. Another guy starts banging on some bongos on a stand. The bongos are kind of the lead percussion instrument in Cuban music. Their sound is complex, and they require great skill to play well. The bongo player is pretty good; you can't count out what he's playing. This is great fun, but I quickly get embarrassed and a little nervous--a case of stage fright, sort of--and stop playing. I figure I'll quit while I'm ahead, before I lose the beat and screw up. I buy a guiro for two dollars and a set of clavets for three. Putting my arm around the bongo player, I say gracias, thanking him for the opportunity to participate in this little market place jam session. The Cubans are all smiles. "De Canada?" the proprietor asks. I shake my head, "Estados Unidos." The Cuban gets a little wide-eyed. They don't get too many visitors here from the U.S.

A little further down, I encounter several members of the Trinidad cycling team crowded around a stall. As I listen to their conversation, it is apparent they are trying to tell the Cuban proprietor that one of their members has won a gold medal in the Pan American Masters games. It is the guy who won the criterium in my age group, a short light skinned man with silver pony tail. Without thinking, I greet the Trinidadians in Spanish, but they speak English. Playing translator, I tell the Cuban in my pidgin Spanish that these guys are bike racers from Trinidad, and that one of them has won a gold medal in the Pan American Masters Championships. The Cuban is duly impressed, repeating the word oro-gold-slowly, and the Trinidadians are proud. I shake hands with them all. "Congratulations," I say. "See you next year," as I drift down the aisle.

When I get to the end of the market, I can look up and see our bus. It is starting to move, so I break into a full sprint and run a hundred meters, waving my left hand, carrying my cigars, clavets and guiro in my right. The bus stops and I get on.

Back at the Tropicoco, I hustle up to my room. It is past three o'clock and we are leaving at five thirty for dinner at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. I want to shower, take a nap, and have a cigar and a few Cristals before we leave, so there's no time to waste. I have one problem, however. My room key is not in the pocket I left it in. Nor is it in any other pocket. Gulp. Major key panic. I check all my pockets again, check my bag, my pockets, no key. At the end of the corridor, I spy a cleaning cart, so I go down and ask the maid to let me into my room. She complies and I go in and lay on my bed. I puff on the remains of one of last night's cigars as I contemplate my dilemma and try to decide what to do.

I briefly consider just leaving my room unlocked for the evening. Tomorrow, at checkout, I could report the lost key, pay whatever charge they impose, and be done with it. But that would mean either leaving my laptop, bikes and cigars in an unlocked room, or putting my valuables in someone else's room. I decide to go down to the front desk and see if they have an extra key.

In most of the world's hotels, a lost key simply means re-programming the lock and giving you a new card. Here, they actually have to physically change the lock. The desk clerk is not too happy about this. She has to fill out some paperwork and I have to give her ten dollars. For some reason, this process takes a half hour, cutting deeply into my sleeping/beer-drinking/cigar-smoking time. Later, as I lay semi-sleeping on my bed, there is a knock on the door. It is the hotel maintenance man, come to change the lock. Pretty good service. At least I won't have to deal with this situation when we get back from the Nacional. The guy changes the lock in ten minutes, gives me a key and leaves. I partially disassemble my road bike and pack it in the hard plastic cargo case.

When I go to leave the room later, the doorknob comes off in my hand. Great. I stick the knob back on the protruding metal stub and find that if I am gentle, I can open the door without pulling off the knob. Good enough. No sense troubling the maintenance man over such a little detail. The door is locked, I have a key to open it, and we are off to a farewell dinner with some of the Cuban cycling officials and national team members at Havana's flagship hotel.

They say the Hotel Nacional was built in the 1930s by mobster Meyer Lansky, whose ambition was to build the world's fanciest hotel. It sits grandly on the oceanfront, at the end of the Malecon, the wide boulevard that hugs the sea wall at the northern end of central Havana. Most of the U.S. cyclists are going to the dinner, which costs fifty bucks apiece, and we are all more dressed up than usual. No shorts, no jeans. A lot of people are wearing black. I am wearing light tan khaki pants and a white guayaverde. John says I look like I'm going to the beach.

We pass through the hotel's great doors to find an impeccably maintained and elegant lobby in its original 30s décor. The floors are marble, the dark wood is highly polished, and there is intricate detail in the ceiling and chandeliers hanging from it. We cross the lobby and exit through glass doors to an outdoor patio with tables, couches and upholstered chairs on the edge of a gigantic, perfectly manicured lawn sloping down to the ocean. The edge of the patio is lined with thick, flowering plants and palm trees dot the lawn. There is a walkway down to the ocean, also lined with low, lush, flowers, and ornate benches every fifty feet or so. In a corner of the patio is a bar with three bartenders wearing black vests and white shirts. A three-piece band, wearing dark suits, is playing Comandante Che Guevara, a hauntingly beautiful song with a distinctive minor-key guitar lick. The thump-thump of the stand-up acoustic base really resonates, and I think it must be a fine, old instrument of the highest quality to sound like that.

John and I settle into one of the couches. Dan from California and Mike and Pat Fraysse join us, sitting in the plush chairs around our table. We order mojitos and light up cigars. Dignitaries from the Cuban cycling federation stop by to greet Mike and Pat. Mike has a story, or some interesting background information, about each one of them. I have a few Cohibas with me, but the cigar for me this night is the Romeo and Juliet Churchill John bought for me earlier at the Partagas Factory store. This, to me, is a cigar for special occasions, and I can think of no better time or place to smoke it.

They eventually call us in for dinner. We are led into an immense room with thirty-foot high ceilings, ornate mirrors, magnificent sparkling chandeliers and formally dressed waiters bowing and greeting us as we enter. There is a single table stretching from one side of the room to the other. Half our party of sixty will sit on one side, half on the other. At the far end of the table is a grand piano, being played by a smiling woman with long blond hair wearing a white floor-length evening gown edged in lace. I have been in some fancy joints in my day, but this one, I have to say, takes the cake. You have to wonder why Fidel allows this place to exist.

I walk down to the end of the table and take a seat by the piano. John sits next to me. The piano player smiles, and I strike up a conversation. Her name is Anna Martin and she is a piano and string bass player and teacher, but not a singer. I tell her I play a little piano, but not well. She composes instrumental music which she describes as a fusion of traditional Cuban Son and jazz. Guajiro jazz, she calls it. Guajiro is the word Cubans use to describe the culture and people of the rural parts of Cuba. The traditional guajiro music is the Cuban equivalent of our more traditional country music. Anna plays one of her original songs, and you can hear the simple progressions of Son beneath the complex jazz chords. She has a CD for sale.

When she is done, Anna slides over and motions for me to sit next to her. Fueled by mojitos and the magic of this Cuban night, I get out of my chair and go to the piano. I play a little arpeggio in C, then add the blue note, B flat, for a C7. That's enough for me, and I return to my seat at the table. Erica, a road and track racer from Santa Cruz, California, leans over, looks past John, and asks "a little stage fright, there, Bob?" Exactly. There's not enough mojitos in all of Havana to get me to play the piano here.

The dinner choices are filet mignon or vegetarian lasagna. I have the lasagna, and it is delicious. After dinner, Mark and I sneak outside for a cigar. We stroll down toward the ocean and order Havana Clubs at the small bar we find there. The night is warm and humid and there is a slight breeze blowing in from the ocean. I think about leaving the next day and get a little emotional as we puff on our Cohiba Siglos and sip the dark rum.

We leave at 5:00 a.m. the next morning for the airport. Our flight is scheduled to depart at eight. It's a cumbersome procedure to get thirty some bike racers, their bikes and their luggage packed up and on the plane. I'm leaving my track bike here, donating it to the Cuban cycling federation. It's a little too big for me and I plan to get another. Between the money I'll save by not having to ship it back home, and the tax deduction I'll get for the donation, it makes more sense to leave it than to sell it on Ebay.

Our flight is delayed and we get to sit in the restaurant upstairs at the Jose Marti Airport for a couple of hours, eating breakfast, smoking cigars, sipping Café Cubano and watching the skies for the arrival of our plane through large windows. Most of the eight riders I'm sitting with order eggs. I ask for orange juice, but they don't have any. They have guava juice, which comes in a box, and I drink three. Ronnie Hinson, CAT 1, 45+ racer from North Carolina, orders some hot water and pulls out a package of instant cheddar flavored grits. Like most true grits lovers, he is highly enthusiastic about their virtues, and offers everyone at the table a taste. I try a little and they are, in fact, pretty good. Someone quotes Joe Pesci's line from My Cousin Vinnie about no self-respecting southerner eating instant grits, and we laugh.

This Cuba trip is over, and I am undeniably sad as we walk across the tarmac to our turbo prop. Again, they cannot fit all of our luggage in the plane, and Mike will have to spend an extra night in Miami so he can get the rest of the luggage the next day and bring it home. My bike and bag make it back, however, and I collect them in Miami and breeze through customs. As I wait in line to check in at the Continental counter for my flight to Newark, I think about cyclocross, probably as far away from Cuba as you can get on the bike-racing spectrum. The 2004 Pan American Master Championships are history, but there's plenty more bike racing to come before we have to slide into our winter base-training mode. Hasta la vista, Cuba.

Bob Cary October 17, 2004