Today was the 3rd and final stage of the Coqui Dorado stage race in Puerto Rico. Team Herbalife went into the stage with Gavin tied with two other riders for 2nd overall, Colin in 9th, and Dave in 10th on the general classification.
Our morning was quite hectic. After rushing to wake up at 5:45am to get on the bus to take us to the start, the bus driver decided to sleep in and showed about 45 minutes late. Luckily, the race director was with us, so the whole race got delayed. Before the start, Gavin and I (Blake) both talked with the officials to clarify how the riders would be placed if they were tied on time at the end of the day. What we both got from the officials was that the final GC would come down to whoever placed better in the final stage. Ok. Game plan set.
With the pavement slightly drying out from morning rains, the gun went off and we were on our way with 12 laps of a 4.5 mile circuit with one climb in it per lap. After a flurry of attacks on the first lap, Dave ended up off the front in a small group and we were hoping that was that. Unfortunately, after his crazy strong ride yesterday, some of the top GC guys weren’t giving him any leash and brought him back a lap later. I ended up countering the move and was solo for a while before 2 riders bridged up right before the climb. One guy was sitting on, and we dropped him up the climb. The other rider and I ended up spending the next 5 laps or so smashing the wind and keeping the field at bay.
On the 7th lap up the climb a small group of 4 ended up bridging up to us, and Adam was in it, giving us 2 guys in a 6 man break. The 6 of us worked well together as none of us were overall threats on the GC. The gap to the field went out over a minute and stayed there for a bit before starting to drop the last 3 laps as the big GC riders started turning the screws and blowing the field apart.
Adam followed a dangerous last lap attack up the final climb as I was pretty toast after 90 minutes off the front, but our group of 6 came back together and started working again as there was a chase group closing in on us quickly. Going into the final sprint, Adam was 2nd wheel and I was 6th. I hesitated a little too late before trying to jump the break and never quite got to the front. Adam ended up taking 2nd on the day and I took 3rd.
The next group 25 seconds back had Gavin in it, who out sprinted the other rider he was tied in 2nd place, to theoretically take 2nd overall according to what we established earlier with the officials. Unfortunately, this ended up being some sort of communication error, and Gavin was given 3rd overall as the other rider beat Gavin the previous 2 days in placings.
The Coqui Dorado was the most success we have tasted yet on the international stage, with ten top 10 finishes, three stage podiums, and a 3rd place overall in the General Classification. We also would have won the Team GC and most aggressive rider award everyday, but a bunch of the race funding got pulled a month before the race started so those categories disappeared. It was a little bittersweet not being able to pull off a stage win, but the team rode so well all 3 stages it is hard to not be elated. It was an absolute blast racing as well as life behind the scenes, from playing dominos with riders from the Dominican Republic (they crushed us), eating rice, beans, and chicken for every meal but breakfast, living in what was probably a converted minimum security prison, getting soaked by two tropical storms, and seeing some lush verdant Puerto Rican countryside.
Now we are off to Old San Juan to check out the beautiful historic city, culinary delights, and beaches for a day or two before heading home. Thanks for tuning in.