Here’s the other part of Tour of San Luis. That is, the part that involves a camera and very little about the dynamics of bike racing. Or very little racing news, anyway.
San Luis is located in the rural Argentinian flatlands. It’s smack in the middle of Argentina, but it’s also precisely in the middle of nowhere. Being January in the southern hemisphere, it now features baking summer heat. Like fry and egg on the pavement hot. So almost exacdtly as it unfolded three years ago in my first go at San Luis, in the middle of the insane heat, there was a touch of a storm the day before. This resulted in near biblical flooding and thankfully only vehicles, trash, and random footwear were swept down the roads (three sneakers and four sandals spotted. No matching pairs were seen). No buildings appear to have been washed away.
The Vista Hotel, which housed the majority of the 160 racers as well as an enormous army of staff overseeing the Tour of San Luis, has two elevators. They are both incredibly tiny and in big bold writing, they say “Solo 3 Personas”. At times, we would be commuting home from a race, and after a three hour transfer we would frequently be hungry, antsy, short tempered, and most certainly on the verge of cracking cracked. Rather than taking the stairs, we would often cram four or more people onto an elevator. This often resulted in broken elevators and an intrepid rescue mission by the hotel staff. When they say Tres Personas, they mean it.
Every team had their mechanics working like they’re coal miners, never to see the light of day. Mechanics worked in the hotel garage, each with a little iron-barred cubicle. Let’s go bike riding, eh fellas?
The official sandwich of Argentina is the lomo. Technically lomo means beef, but in contextual vernacular — as in, at a sandwich dealership — lomo refers to a lomo sandwich. It’s quite a tall sammy and from bottom to top you’ll find some semblance of the following:
Fluffy stale bread
Lomo! Or steak to the layman
More special sauce
The roof of more fluffy stale bread
Like Quiznos, they toast their sandwiches to make them better than average. The Rey Del Poncho knows how to make a mean recovery Lomo.
Around this time, it’s probably time to get racing. Yeah? Yeah. Oh wait, there’s a team presentation beforehand. It started at 7pm and the entire population of San Luis, and probably another 15,000 people were imported into a fairly small sports facility for the presentation of teams. Complete with fireworks, salsa dancing, and bikini clad women, it was definitely something to behold. I decided while up on stage to take a photo of the photographers taking photos of us. Some time creeping towards midnight, it was over. Optimal for pre-racing resting.
And upon being presented, we moved to the side so that other teams could be presented. Ole.
At the conclusion of each stage, there would be a caravan of vehicles snaking literally for miles down the road. Race cars, team vans, press, random buses, and complete with annoyingly blaring police sirens to complete the escort, it made for quite the scene. Locals would rush to the streets to take it all in.
The warm up for the time trial.
Local citizens hang out with zest and thumbs pointing skyward pretty much everywhere.
The beginning and end of stages are a friendly assault by the local townspeople for water bottles. Never in your life will you see so many people asking for water bottles as you’ll experience in San Luis. No fewer than 38,000 requests for “Thermo, por favor?” per day. Zero exaggeration has been had in this paragraph. Truly amazing.
Amid scouting the TT course, I found this friendly young chico. Remember how I mentioned locals love water bottles? Well needless to say, he asked me for one, even though he could clearly see I didn’t have one anywhere on me, on my bike, or anywhere within magical production distance. Lo siento amigo. Thumbs up anyway! (And yes, that is a dinosaur. Duh, what else would it be?)
We’re not sure why, but Gomerias, or Rubber Stores, or more specifically Tire Stores are everywhere. E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. On the TT recon’ mission home, we found yet another. Joe touched it for verification. Confirmed, that is a tire.
There are equal numbers of dogs as there are Gomerias in San Luis. Like Starbucks in New York City, there are an average of four per block.
Pimp My Ride with Xibit. Such a great show.
After a week of South American racing, our journey home started at 4:30am on Monday (while the mandatory post-racing party concluded sometime around 1am) at which point we headed for the buses, destined for the minute San Luis airport. From there, we flew to Buenos Aires, arriving at 9am where we had a mere 12 hour window to make our connecting flights. Most of the race flew to Europe, most Americans guys flew to Atlanta, while I flew to Miami and then should have* continued onto Boston. Rather than hanging out at the Buenos Aires airport, we opted for an hour long taxi into town and to see what the Argentine capitol has to offer. We walked a lot, saw San Telmo and three other famous sections of town. And to our utter amazement — although we did not go in — we found our first South American Starbucks.
More walking about town.
*It’s now Wednesday evening. I started traveling Monday morning. Have you heard about this blizzard in New England? Yeah, I’m stuck in Florida amid a 72 hour layover as a result of flight after flight after flight being cancelled or delayed. Crazy what 3 feet of snow will do to a town. G’night.