Monday, July 13, 2009

A Day that will live in Infamy

There are but a handful of events so momentous, so grand that they alter the course of humanity forever. The extinction of the dinosaurs, the ice age, the crucifixion of Christ, and the Bike Race that Shock the World. That’s right, for the first time in it’s more than 400 years of history, since the Portuguese stepped foot on these islands, since the struggle for independence and the birth of democracy, finally, after all the waiting, the first cross island bike race has been held on São Nicolau.

The 26km race followed the National road on the island, from its capital Vila de Ribeira Brava to the youthful fishing town of Tarrafal. From the central highlands to the ocean, the race covered all types of terrain, from steep uphill’s to flat coastal sections, to eye tearing downhill’s. The race began, SHOCKINGLY, at the exact hour set, 10am on Sunday, July 12th. With representatives from all parts of the island participating, the race crossed social and political classes. Truly this race was multi-racial, diverse event that may be the beginnings of world peace.

15 cyclists headed off after a “Tres, Dois, Um, BAI!!!!” count down from the Veriador de Desportivo in R. Brava. From the start, the riders had to complete a small uphill to get to the coastal section of then road that dips down and up over three ribeiras. With the Police in front, the road was cleared of traffic and the riders were able to switch back on some of the steeper parts. As the hills began to add up, the riders began to break away from each others, with a few of the stronger in front and some of the weaker climbers in the rear, but all making their way.

With a last descent to the lowest part of the road, near Quiemadas, the riders let out an audible sigh as the most tortuous part of the race was upon them, nearly 10km of all uphill. As the caravan made its way through Fajá, we learned that one of the bikers in the rear had taken a spill on a notoriously dangerous curve and had been taken to the hospital. While he didn’t finish the race, he needed up with just a few scratches and his bike wasn’t damaged.

The leader was well ahead of the rest of the riders through the uphill struggles of Fajá, Lompelado, Canto and finally into Cachaço. Being in the led car, we speed ahead to make it down to the finish line in order to catch the first place biker soaring in. From Cachaço, it’s a 10km downhill bomb were a new set of skills are needed by the riders: braking curves and basically holding on for dear life as your bike reaches frightening speeds.

Finally, after an hour and 35 minutes, the leader from the start cruised past the finish line to a roar from the local crowd. Three minutes later, second place came in followed a minute later by third place. Every minute another rider came speeding down the last hill to the finish line. All who started, whether a winner or slight worse for the wear, made it to Tarrafal by mid-day to applause from all who had a hand in the race and a final speech from the Veriador de Desportivo in Tarrafal.

The race was an amazing success. All riders had helmets and wore them, and more helmets are going to be given out to those who weren’t able to ride in the race. All the riders are talking about the next race, the next time they can get together. The budding of a Bicycle Association was born on July 12th, 2009.

And so, after a year and a half since my first email with Sonadei, the bike race is completed, but the work isn’t done. More helmets will be distributed, an association will be formed, and future bike events will be planned. A huge thank you to everyone who supported this event through donations to purchasing multiple t-shirts, to Garrett from Sonadei for his tireless work, to my local partner Floriano, to the Camara’s who provided support with cars and water, and finally to all the bikers who made the race what it was.