A Mexican Racing Story

My cycling hero, Dex Tooke is back with another incredible story.  We’ve featured this incredible RAAM Endurance Cyclist many times in the past and have published one of his articles as well.  This time Dex shares with us his experiences of racing in Mexico earlier on in his cycling career.

A Mexican Racing Story

by Dex Tooke

The call came Saturday evening at 6:30. “Dex. Dex. Manana a la manana. La Plaza. Acuna. A las ocho.” I recognized the female voice although I wasn’t sure I had ever met the woman. Her voice was the one that always called the night before a Mexico race. She didn’t speak English but she did speak Spanish in a way that got her point across to this Gringo. She was letting me know that there would be a bike race Sunday morning in Mexico. I was to meet at the Plaza in Acuna at 8:00 a.m.

Where the race was supposed to take place, when it was going to start or how many miles we were to race was still uncertain. And I knew better than to ask such questions because I knew that the way races went in Mexico that anything she thought she knew and told me tonight could totally change over the next 12 hours. I responded with “Si,si. Muy bien. Manana a la manana a las ocho. Gracias.” This was very typical of the bicycle road races in Mexico. As the only Gringo daring or bonehead enough to race in Mexico I was just grateful that they let me know about the races.

A van came to pick me up at the Plaza to take me to the start of the race.  The only available seat was on top of an old auto battery between the driver and passenger front seat.  I sat on it worrying if acid would eat a hole in my cycling shorts.    There were 8 other racers already in the van. We slowly started making our way east toward Piedras Negras.

If the racers spoke slow enough and didn’t care if I recognized what they were saying then I could pick up enough words to understand them. But when they didn’t want me to understand, they would speak a slang and speak it fast and I could only pick up isolated words. The most recognizable was Gringo (pronounced Greeeengo) or Duro. Both were nic names they had given me over the years of racing in Mexico. Gringo was slang and not very complimentary for American. Duro meant “hard” and was given to me because of my legs. They tended to use Duro to my face and Gringo behind my back.

Then I saw Gato and his entourage of team mates from Monclova.  We have been racing for several years and a bitter rivalry had developed. In the early years when I wasn’t a threat to him we would speak sometimes. But as our rivalty grew and as I became more competitive and as I learned of some of his race tactics, then it got to where we never spoke. I had never beat Gato. I came close many times but as the race came down to the meta Gato would always out sprint me.

Gato would be the favorite to win the race today. He always was. He was a coy, savvy racer with a strong team to support him. He was also the best sprinter  I had ever raced against. It didn’t make any difference how far the race or who was competing, when it came down to the last 300 meters of a race if Gato was in the pack then he would just stand up on his pedals, power those tree trunk thighs of his and use all his years of experience and fast twitch fibers and sprint past the field for the win.

The race would be from Guerro to Acuna. 83 miles of roller coaster hills and two lane highways with pot-holes, debris, unfinished shoulders and periodic topas (speed bumps) as the course wound through several small villages. It would be hot with temps over 100 and humidity in the low 40%.  Dehydration would play a major role for not only the novice riders but even for some of the experienced ones. It would also be a fast race as there was a constant 20 mph tail wind with gusts up to 30 mph through some of the canyon descents.

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